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28 March 2013, 16:36

Google pledges non-assertion on MapReduce patents for open source

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Google logo Google has announced that it will not be asserting ten patents it has received for its MapReduce technology when it comes to their use in open source or free software. The promise comes with a pledge that is specifically designed to reduce the patent threat to open source software.

MapReduce is a technique, developed by Google, which maps a problem, and its associated data, over a large number of computers, be they searching for text or performing calculations. The systems return their results and that information is then "reduced" to the answers that the problem setter was looking for. In January 2010, Google received a patent, 7,650,331, which covered the fundamentals of MapReduce. Concerns that Google would leverage that patent were somewhat allayed when the company granted a licence to the Apache Software Foundation's Hadoop project, which is an implementation of MapReduce technology.

Now, Google has gone further, identifying ten patents, including 7,650,331, which it feels relates to MapReduce, and placed them under a new Open Patent Non-Assertion Pledge. The actual pledge says the company will not assert the patent against any developer, distributor or user of "Free or Open Source Software" for patent infringement.

The pledge does not cover hardware or any software which is not open source and distributed outside a company. The pledge also allows for defensive termination if any party who makes use of the pledged patents brings any law suit against Google. Google refers to the FSF for its definition of Free Software and the OSI for its definition of Open Source.

The Google Patent Pledge is somewhat similar to Red Hat's Patent Promise except that Google's applies to specific patents where Red Hat's applies to its entire portfolio of patents. Google says it intends to expand the set of covered patents over time and widen the range of covered technologies. The company also intends to continue lobbying for patent reform especially around the issue of patent trolls. Since its acquisition of Motorola and deals with IBM, Google has gone from holding a few hundred patents to being in control of tens of thousands of patents.



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