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Guess Which Software Giant is Promoting Software Patents

Posted in Bill Gates, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, IBM, Microsoft at 4:27 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

IBM Netvista

Summary: IBM is still advocating a barrier to Free software

SEVERAL readers have independently notified us of more patent insanity — a system whereby new entrants are denied an opportunity to compete.

In Re Bilski is off to the Supreme Court, which could mean an ultimate elimination of software patents in the United States. But there is (at least) one major company standing in the way of such destruction of software patents. That company is not Microsoft (not in this case anyway); It is IBM, whose amicus brief [PDF] (HTML copy) in the Bilski case is far from helpful to Free software. IBM is truly blowing an opportunity here. FFII’s president argues that “IBM says that [software patenting] has promoted the free sharing of source code and fueled the growth of open source software.”

“IBM have a huge patent portfolio across all kinds of things… but they have a blanket position of not chasing open source projects over them…”
“IBM have a huge patent portfolio across all kinds of things,” writes Ng, “but they have a blanket position of not chasing open source projects over them… maybe it’s not blanket, but they’re part of OIN.” It is not necessarily a good thing because it only legitimises software patents and the OIN is now harvesting more patents.

See the footnote on page 23, which says: “Given the reality that software source code is human readable, and object code can be reverse engineered, it is difficult for software developers to resort to secrecy. Thus, without patent protection, the incentives to innovate in the field of software are significantly reduced. Patent protection has promoted the free sharing of source code on a patentee’s terms—which has fueled the explosive growth of open source software development.

“Note the lack of a citation supporting the proposition stated in that last sentence,” notes another reader.

In other disappointing news, watch how patents are putting a price on life. The New York Times fails to convey what a travesty it truly is.

Dr. Quake calculates that the most recently sequenced human genome cost $250,000 to decode, and that his machine brings the cost to less than a fifth of that.

How ‘affordable’. Human life is now in private hands.

Also see this new essay titled “Poverty Kills” and remember relationships between the Gates Foundation and the pharmaceutical industry (it is a critique by the way).

How do you even decide what minimal nutritional requirements are? Why three? The answer is simple: just count deaths instead.

To the industry which explores medicine and genome, death usually means business.

“The day that the software sector forms a clear front against software patents, as pharma does for a unitary patent system… will be the day our cause comes close to winning.” —Pieter Hintjens, Fosdem07 Interview

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  1. Jose_X said,

    August 12, 2009 at 8:54 pm


    First mistake is that they brush over reverse engineering of binaries as if it was a similar thing (ie, as complete and efficient) to having human-readable source code.

    Yeah, Bob. That is why FOSS stands for Free and Reversed-Engineered Software. That is why IBM will from this day forward distribute any source code at low cost to everyone that asks (since reverse engineering is so easy, cheap, and effective — why anger your clients for no real reason). Sure.

    The second mistake is that contributing to FOSS has many advantages if you are a hardware company, service provider, or a user .. and that includes the vast majority of the world (including IBM on all three counts). It’s these groups (and others) that are contributing to FOSS. They benefit immediately and directly. Since patents are easier to come up with than a solid piece of software, would so many people be wasting their time writing software at such low gains (if we believe IBM) and not going after patents instead? Or is it that the people contributing to and using/leveraging FOSS are really gaining?

    IBM wants the government to keep handing out unethical, stifling, and unconstitutional monopolies to prop up profit margins and unjust weapons against competitors despite the costs to the rest of society and to innovation. It’s not that patents are needed. It’s that they continue to be profitable assets to those that take the time (and have the money, experience, and lack of ethics) to exploit that broken system that survives on the backs of the many that are writing software instead of writing patents.

    Microsoft and IBM want to continue to keep their levers so as to buy out for cheap the companies doing the real work and keep companies growing fast from FOSS unable to escape heavy Industry-Giants Taxes.


  2. Charles Oliver said,

    August 12, 2009 at 11:33 pm


    As pointed out, IBM are a member of the Open Invention Network.

    It’s not terribly surprising that a company that is so heavily invested in patents is riding to defend them. IBM’s patents give them a competitive advantage.

    If anything the number of large companies represented in these friends of the court briefs shows what a big advantage patents are to incumbents in the market.

  3. BrownieBoy said,

    August 13, 2009 at 5:03 am


    Scarey stuff, maybe. But on the positive side, it’s also a restraint on Microsoft’s patent lawsuits.

    Microsoft has been poking around the edges so far – i.e. the TomTom thing. But it knows that it can’t risk open patent warfare with IBM. That would be MAD (as in Mutually Assured Destruction).

    And IBM has been Linux-friendly so far. So some good as well as bad here, IMHO.

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