EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

05.11.09

IBM’s Missed Opportunity to Help Free Software

Posted in IBM, OIN, Patents at 4:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

When silence is consent

IBM Netvista

Summary: It’s high time that people asked IBM to abolish software patents

IBM and its embodiment in other organisations like the Linux Foundation and OIN are no opponents of software patents, so it’s always important to challenge IBM to 'pull a Bilski' on such patents. Without pressure, nothing will ever change.

IBM does not attack Free software using its patents, but it does use these as a marketing tool (indemnification and other perceived protections). This puts IBM in a position of considerable advantage and may not help Free software in the long term. Big Blue wants to keep the cake and eat it too.

“IBM does not attack Free software using its patents, but it does use these as a marketing tool (indemnification and other perceived protections).”IBM likes the Eclipse licence and while it subscribes a lot to Linux, it more of less distances itself from GNU, and particularly its philosophy. While IBM did offer its endorsement to the GPLv3, it did not oppose software patents in Europe and instead opted for some sort of a waffle. See its submission to the EBoA here (direct link requires session ID).

The reason for bringing this up is the possible appointment of an IBM person who might soon become the director of the USPTO. He could make more of farce of the USPTO, whose heads usually come from software patent proponents and/or the large patent holders (embracing maximal monopoly). Perhaps by contrast, the former USPTO Commissioner Bruce Lehman was recently quoted as saying that “The age of IP rights being at the forefront of American trade policy is over.”

The appointment of a person from IBM is far from final because there are other candidates, as IAM Magazine reports:

Three names have been in the frame for the job up to now: Todd Dickinson, David Kappos and James Pooley.

To say more about IBM, here is a new finding that came via Digital Majority.

Patent Thickets and Patent Trolls:

[...]

[T]his new definition would now include many corporations, such as IBM, which collect patents, not for manufacturing purposes, but to use them as a shield against patent infringement lawsuits. (Coincidentally, two commentators to my prior post on incremental invention mentioned IBM’s practice of hoarding patents.) In sum, IBM, which has long been one of the largest owners of patents in the country, uses patents defensively. Its policy has been one of “mutually assured destruction,” i.e., if someone threatens to sue it for patent infringement, then it promises that it can find a patent in its massive patent portfolio with which to countersue for infringement. This policy has worked marvelously well for IBM, which has mostly avoided patent infringement lawsuits and has been left free to devote its time, energy and money to developing new products and services that it offers in the marketplace. But IBM’s policy of hoarding patents is certainly “patent troll”-like behavior — patents are being used solely for litigation purposes and not for development of actual products sold in the marketplace.

If IBM cares about Free(dom) software, then it will put software patents to rest. Limiting their scope is not enough because they are inherently incompatible with software freedom, where code can be redistributed.

“IBM is proud of its patent portfolio, and the fact that they produce patents at a rate of 10 a day. With such an extensive arsenal of patents, backed by unlimited legal funds – what chances are left for the VC backed company? This is like the US going to war against Micronesia.” —Daniel Cohen, Gemini Israel Funds

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

3 Comments

  1. Contrarian said,

    May 11, 2009 at 6:24 am

    Gravatar

    What makes you think IBM doesn’t do harm to free software with patents? It has a highly profitable business cross-licensing them – designed by the same guy who went on to switch Microsoft from using patents for-defense to for-profit – and it chills the market for commercial use of free software just the same way Microsoft does. The fact that Microsoft is more clumsy in its actions and more honest in its intent doesn’t make IBM – cunning and opaque – any better.

    And I love your implication that IBM might want to see software patents abolished, if we only asked! How ridiculous! They love them!

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    What makes you think IBM doesn’t do harm to free software with patents?

    Where did I suggest this?

    I wrote:

    “IBM does not attack Free software using its patents, but it does use these as a marketing tool (indemnification and other perceived protections).”

    And I love your implication that IBM might want to see software patents abolished, if we only asked! How ridiculous! They love them!

    Of course. If I raise the issue in Sutor’s blog, he deletes the comments.

  2. David L. Craig said,

    May 13, 2009 at 8:08 am

    Gravatar

    IBM is a for-profit entity. It is far more focused on their historical method of generating them: selling products and services to organizations of all sizes that make big differences in those organizations’ bottom lines. Their success speaks for itself. They have understood all the important considerations of this focus for a very long time, including product liability, quality, and innovation. Patents are the fallout of R&D, obtained primarily as a defensive measure. As the government changed patent rules, IBM adapted in response. Now the rules seem to be swinging back again. At this time there are pros and cons that every software manufactuer needs to balance as they plan for the future of software patents. Portfolio disarmanent will be as simple as nuclear disarmanent. I rate IBM’s goodwill much higher than any of its peers.

What Else is New


  1. Links 27/7/2014: KDE 4.14 Beta 3, KDE 4.14 Beta 3 Released

    Links for the day



  2. Apple and Microsoft Are Proprietary Software Companies and the Media Should Stop Openwashing Them

    New examples where proprietary software giants are characterised as FOSS-embracing and FOSS-friendly by gullible or dishonest 'journalists'



  3. Bloomberg's Microsoft Propaganda

    Bloomberg delivers 'damage control' and PR ahead of the layoffs announcement; Microsoft uses Nokia to hide it and Bloomberg helps Microsoft by radically modifying headlines



  4. Frequency of Browser Back Doors in Microsoft Windows is Doubling

    The vulnerabilities which Microsoft tells the NSA about (before these are patched) are significantly growing in terms of their numbers



  5. FUD Entities Entering the FOSS World

    Symantec enters the AllSeen Alliance and Sonatype is once again trying to claim great insecurity in FOSS due to software licensing



  6. Groklaw Back in the Wake of ODF in the UK?





  7. Links 26/7/2014: New Wine, Chromebooks Strong Sales

    Links for the day



  8. Links 25/7/2014: GOG With GNU/Linux, Ubuntu 14.04.1 LTS

    Links for the day



  9. Links 24/7/2014: Oracle Linux 7; Fedora Delays

    Links for the day



  10. Valerie Strauss Explains Why Gates Foundation's Lobbying for 'Common Core' (Privatisation) is a Swindle That Makes Microsoft Richer

    Continued criticism of the Gates Foundation's lobbying and masquerading, with more journalists brave enough to highlight the corruption



  11. USPTO Officially Sets New Guidelines to Limit Scope of Software Patents in the United States

    Even patent lawyers finally acknowledge that the incentive to file software patent applications has been reduced, as the scope of patents on software has been noticeably narrowed and they are harder to acquire, let alone enforce in a courtroom



  12. UK Government Adopts OpenDocument Format (ODF) and Microsoft Already Attacks the Government Over It, Showing Absolutely No Commitment to Open Standards

    Only "Microsoft as the standard" is the 'standard' Microsoft is willing to accept, as its response to the Cabinet Office's judgment reveals



  13. Microsoft Layoffs of 2014

    Another quick look at Microsoft's horrible state of affairs and why it has virtually nothing to do with Nokia



  14. Links 22/7/2014: Linux 3.16 RC 6, New UberStudent

    Links for the day



  15. Links 20/7/2014: Jolla in India, Mega Censored in Italy

    Links for the day



  16. Longtime Mono Booster Joins Microsoft-linked Xamarin

    Jo Shields almost joins Microsoft, settling instead for its proxy, Xamarin



  17. Linux Foundation Welcomes Patent Aggressor Red Bend Software

    The Linux Foundation's AllSeen Alliance welcomes as a member a company that uses software patents to sue Free/Open Source software



  18. Matt Levy From Patent Progress (and CCIA) Does Not Really Want Patent Progress

    Matthew ('Matt') Levy moved into a foe of patent progress last year, but he still runs a site calls Patent Progress, in which he diverts all attention to patent trolls (as large corporations such as Microsoft like to do)



  19. Attacking FOSS by Ignoring/Overlooking Issues With Proprietary Software

    The biasing strategy which continues to be used to demonise Free/Open Source software (FOSS) along with some new examples



  20. Links 19/7/2014: CRUX 3.1 is Out, CyanogenMod Competes With Google Now

    Links for the day



  21. Microsoft's Massive Layoffs Go Far Beyond Nokia; Nokia's Android Phones Axed by Microsoft's Elop

    Microsoft's rapid demise and permanent exit from Nokia's last remaining Linux platform (after Microsoft had killed two more)



  22. Patents on Software Already Being Invalidated in Courts Owing to SCOTUS Ruling on 'Abstract' Patents

    The Federal Circuit Appeals Court has just "invalidated a software patent for being overly abstract," says a patents expert



  23. OpenSUSE 'Community' is Crumbling, AttachMSFT Killed SUSE's Potential (Except as Microsoft Tax)

    Not much too see in the land of SUSE and Attachmate, or formerly the company known as Novell



  24. Links 18/7/2014: Slackware Turns 21, Spotify Switches to Ubuntu

    Links for the day



  25. Links 16/7/2014: Manjaro 0.8.10 Third Update, SIA Migrates to Red Hat

    Links for the day



  26. Microsoft's Latest Round of Massive/Bulk/Large-scale Layoffs

    Microsoft boosters are preparing 'damage control' pieces ahead of massive layoffs at Microsoft



  27. Secrecy Allows British Government to be Manipulated by Microsoft for Spyware Behind Closed Doors

    Dependence on malicious software from NSA ally Microsoft is highly dependent, at least in Britain, on government secrecy and vain refusal to comply with Freedom of Information (FOI) requests



  28. Software Patent Applications Already Being Rejected in the US Owing to SCOTUS Ruling, Some Patent Lawyers Are Fuming

    Good news on the software patents front as the USPTO starts rejecting software patent applications, based on patent lawyers' words



  29. Links 15/7/2014: New Plasma, Google Announces Project Zero

    Links for the day



  30. Interest in Free Software Coverage and 9 Months With Tux Machines

    Thoughts about the level of interest in Free/Open Source software (FOSS) and growth of at least some sites that focus on GNU/Linux


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts