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Big banks commit to patent non-aggression as troll, tech challenges mount

man looking over a design plan all over his wall
February 16, 2021

Canada’s TD Bank and London-based Barclays are now members of the Open Invention Network, the world’s largest patent non-aggression community, spearheaded by seven companies including Google, IBM, Sony, and Toyota.

The group has over 3,300 members, which all agree to cross-license their Linux System patents and applications. TD Bank and Barclays also gain access to OIN’s pool of over 1,100 royalty-free patents, with applications ranging from security to automotive to blockchain. They join fellow financial institutions like Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, UnionPay, and Ant Financial in committing to patent non-aggression.

The practice is meant to foster co-opetition among the world’s most powerful companies and most promising startups, freely sharing core technologies to drive innovation. OIN focuses on open source software, particularly Linux, which powers much of the world’s technology.

Joining a patent non-aggression group also helps deter patent trolls, entities solely in the business of litigating IPs instead of applying them.

Litigation from patent trolls costs defendants over $29 billion out-of-pocket every year, according to 2014 research from the Cornell Law Review. And the economic burden of patent lawsuits have only continued to worsen since.

Patent troll activity has skyrocketed in recent decades — 2013 saw them file six times more lawsuits than in the 1980s. They started 470 cases in the first four months of 2020 alone, and the pandemic year ended with 20% more troll suits year-on-year.

But patent trolls were not the only ones hard at work as the world shut down due to COVID-19. With next to no option to physically access their money, bank customers demanded more digitization. And many banks obliged, taking customer experiences online, while automating their back-office operations. Both involved accelerated adoption of financial technology, which itself grows increasingly reliant on open source software.

By forming patent non-aggression communities, banks safeguard themselves from patent trolls while clearing their path to the digital future of finance.

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