Google is ramping up its campaign to protect the cloud from the sort of nuisance patent lawsuits that have engulfed the smartphone and app-developer industries.
On Thursday, the company designated 79 more patents to be part of its “Open Patent Non-Assertion Pledge,” which amounts to a non-aggression pact under which anyone can use the technology described in the patents — anyone, that is, who doesn’t use patents to attack Google first.
The news, announced in a blog post, is significant because the patents relate to essential elements of “big data,” which is one the most important fields in technology right now. Google hopes the newly added patents, which it acquired from IBM and CA Technologies, expand the areas of cloud software in which developers can innovate without fear of being sued.
When the company announced the non-aggression pact in March, the pledge applied to just 10 patents related to MapReduce and Hadoop programming models. The new patents, according to a source at Google, cover different areas related to data-center technologies. In particular, they cover methods for operating data centers efficiently and for so-called “alarm monitoring.”
As we’ve noted before, Google’s non-aggression pact is no magic bullet to stop nuisance cloud-based lawsuits, in part because it provides little deterrent to so-called trolls — shell companies, often backed by lawyers and private investors, that do nothing but acquire old patents in order to file lawsuits.
But overall, the expanded pact is good news because it promotes the idea of a technological open space in which anyone can use the basic building blocks of cloud computing. A similar open model, in the case of copyright, has already proved essential for developing a wide variety of common software; under the open GNU license model, developers contribute a common pool of code that anyone can use.
The Google initiative also coincides with a growing push by tech companies to push back against people who abuse the patent system. These abusers include lawyer Erich Spangenberg, who makes $25 million a year from patent trolling, and boasted to the New York Times about how he “goes thug” on companies that resist his demands.
In response to the trolling problem, cloud-computing provider Rackspace is putting its money on the line to fight a troll that claims to own basic mobile technology. And social media firm Twitter has created the “Innovator’s Patent Agreement” to assure its engineers that it won’t use their work for future patent trolling.
Google says it hopes other companies will also contribute to the pool of patents that form the Open Patent Non-Assertion Pledge.