Huawei may be looking to make some amends as it has now reportedly recently opened up more than 56,000 patents to Linux and open-source companies, reports claim. The Chinese tech giant accomplished that, at least in part, by joining the Open Invention Network (OIN). That move effectively opens up its patents, including around 3,147 stemming from 5G tech to any company.
The sole caveat to the news is that the tech is only open to Linux-related uses. But, in those cases, the patented IP can be used without the need for a license from Huawei. The portfolio also includes AI, IoT, and other hardware innovations and inventions.
This goes beyond 5G tech but that's going to be a big benefit from this
Of course, a decision by Huawei to free up its tech goes well beyond the need to keep 5G moving forward. Those patented IP only make up a comparatively small portion of Huawei's portfolio and the company isn't only working on networking.
Huawei is also one of the world's top mobile manufacturers. As of 2018 and into 2019, despite heavy sanctions from the US, it holds position number two. Samsung is the only smartphone maker that overtakes the company in sales and shipments. And, if not for the above-mentioned sanctions, Huawei was expected to rise above that South Korean OEM too.
Furthermore, Huawei was the top patent recipient in 2019 in Europe. It held a top-ten spot in the US despite its position on the country's "entity list" too. That distinction essentially bans it from operating in or interacting with companies in the region.
Open-sourcing that technology could give network providers facing orders to remove Huawei technology from 5G networks an out. Enforcement on those bans has been delayed for some carriers but are still incoming.
Despite those problems, Huawei's 5G technology is still going to be central to the benefits of its decision to go open source. As stated by Qualcomm execs back in late 2019, Huawei is not only a major player on 5G. It's the top player on the network equipment side of the equation. So both the standardization and any development on next-gen networking needs to include intercompany cooperation with Huawei.
…But doesn't this still apply mostly to Linux?
As noted above, the only drawback to the Huawei decision is that the patents will only be available and open for Linux-related uses. At the surface, that seems to be a fairly big caveat but it may not be. To begin with, companies such as AT&T Intellectual Property LLC, Google, and Verizon are also members of OIN. Those organizations only represent a small segment of the list when it comes to participants.
Operating systems such as Android and Chrome OS are built on Linux kernels too. That means that Huawei's decision to open-source its patents could have some impact there. Of course, whether or not that follows depends on companies in the US and in other regions that have been impacted by bans and restrictions. Those OEMs and product OEMs will still need to choose to work with Huawei's patents for that to be the case.
Regardless, industry experts have been cited stating that the move could serve as a kind of peace offering from Huawei to the US and other countries.