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A Question About Patents: IBM, OIN, Linux Foundation, and Novell

Posted in Finance, GNU/Linux, IBM, Microsoft, Novell, Patents at 10:05 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

IBM’s patent department is actively lobbying Europe to legalise software patents. They have invested millions in fighting example cases to leading European lawcourts such as the EPO’s Technical Boards of Appeal and the German Federal Court in order to soften and eventually remove European restrictions on patenting software. They have also threatened European politicians that IBM might close down local facilities if software patents are not legalised in Europe. IBM has also prevented the US government from conducting studies on the value of software patents for the national economy. In the wake of the Opensource hype, IBM’s rhetoric has become relatively moderate, but nonetheless it is supported by real pressure. IBM has acquired approximately 1000 European software patents whose legal status is currently unclear. Given the great number of software patents in IBM’s hands, IBM is one of the few software companies who may have a genuine interest in software patentability. Once software patents become assertable in Europe, an IBM tax of several billion EUR per year may be levied on European software companies.” [Read more]

IBM and Microsoft are no enemies. They are inclined to collaborate on some things, as the following new article demonstrates.

The baby SAN that IBM is announcing today supports Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008, as well as the current releases of Linux from Red Hat and Novell.

Microsoft does not appear to have cross-licensing agreements with IBM (it’s hard to find examples), so how does that work? By all means, this post is very speculative, so any possibilities that arise should be taken with great deal of caution.

“In fact, OIN seems somewhat close to this ‘umbrella’ establishment..”It emerged in a recent conversation that the Linux Foundation (LF) is not quite so isolated from the issue software patents. In fact, OIN seems somewhat close to this ‘umbrella’ establishment, which Jim Zemlin mentioned in his ‘letter’ published by BusinessWeek last year.

For reasons that were covered here before [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8], the LF seems like a muchly misunderstood ‘fundation’ [sic], whose goals align directly with its members’ — comprising mainly proprietary software/hardware companies. The Foundation spends a lot of time attacking Solaris rather than focus on greater threats. Jim Zemlin responded rather vainly to claims that his words in an IDG article (and later in the New York Times) were damaging.

One source believes there’s more to the story and considers the LF to be more than just an umbrella, claiming: “it seems to be an IBM proxy.

“Type “system” or “method” in the patent commons search, it is all IBM patents,” says our source.

The same goes for OIN, which is said to also include companies like Red Hat, Google, and Oracle.

Claiming that IBM is everywhere, says our source, “None of them [patents] are really from another company [...] and it is too American”

“The Linux Foundation and OIN bear a certain resemblance.”The Linux Foundation and OIN bear a certain resemblance. Intel is right there in the LF though, so IBM is far from the only titan involved. They have a patent FAQ at OIN, but the action they take against the problem is one that we criticised before. I asked Bob Sutor about patents and IBM, but he didn’t even approve my comment, let alone answer the question contained in it. Why is IBM escaping these questions?

Regarding OIN, it’s seems like an IBM thing (Jerry Rosenthal is a former IBMers). One might even argue that OIN is to IBM what Intellectual Ventures is to Microsoft. Novell's CEO and CTO are also former IBMers and IBM approved the patent deal which Novell signed with Microsoft. Marbux and/or Gary Edwards used to suspect this was a form of collusion.

At some stage, we wish to do some more research and find out where OIN’s current CEO is from. If we could finally explain the relationship between OIN and LF, that would be helpful too. It turns out that OIN has some patents in the LF patent commons. There is a patent commons database in the Linux Foundation. Why this intersection and why so much IBM everywhere?

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A Single Comment

  1. AlexH said,

    October 3, 2008 at 10:15 am


    IBM are huge, it’s not a surprise that they have connections to a lot of IT businesses. Even Microsoft is full of ex-IBM people (e.g., Phelps).

    I doubt they will get their way in Europe; that tide has turned for now. I’d be more worried about multinational treaties personally.

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