Google has vowed to not sue users, distributors, or developers of technologies covered by some of its key patents, and has started out by protecting the cloudy Hadoop community.
The Open Patent Non-Assertion (OPN) Pledge was announced by Google on Thursday, and will initially see 10 MapReduce patents receive protection from the Chocolate Factory's lawyers.
"While open platforms have faced growing patent attacks, requiring companies to defensively acquire ever more patents," Google's senior patent counsel Duane Valz wrote in a blog post, "we remain committed to an open Internet – one that protects real innovation and continues to deliver great products and services."
The OPN Pledge guarantees that Google will not "bring a lawsuit or other legal proceeding" against anyone using, developing or distributing free or open source software that relies on tech covered by OPN patents.
The pledge doesn't apply to individuals or organizations that either infringe on patents with hardware or software that is not free or open source, or people who combine free or open source software with special purpose hardware or with software that is not free or open source.
Translation: Google will not go after the open source community, but if people start to take the technology in a proprietary direction, they could find themselves getting a letter from Google's lawyers. And don't even think about making a custom Hadoop appliance.
"We hope the OPN Pledge will provide a model for companies looking to put their own patents into the service of open-source software, which continues to enable amazing innovation," Valz wrote.
Google thinks the OPN Pledge has advantages over other non-aggression patent schemes by other companies. Specifically, Mountain View likes the pledge's transparency, breadth, durability, and defensive protection.
Microsoft made a similar move in the past by protecting the open-source implementation of .NET known as Project Mono. The move saw Redmond make C# and CLI available under an OPN-style scheme named the "Community Promise". Red Hat and IBM have also instituted similar schemes.
The 10 MapReduce patents that fall under the OPN pledge are fundamental to the workings of the Hadoop data-analysis engine, and therefore to the huge community of data fiddlers, wranglers, and prodders who have gathered around the open source platform. Under OPN Pledge protection, developers have another incentive to play around with Hadoop without the threat of a patent lawsuit hovering over their heads. Unless they shoot a suit at Google, that is. ®