04.06.10

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IBM Uses Software Patents Aggressively

Posted in GNU/Linux, IBM, Microsoft, Novell, Patents, UNIX at 3:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Beware the Big Blue monster

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Summary: New leak shows that IBM not only lobbies to keep software patents, but that it also uses them against rivals

SHAME on IBM. In many previous posts we criticised IBM's stance on software patents and now we can criticise its legal actions too.

Regardless of the motives of TurboHercules (it has joined Microsoft’s lobby [1, 2]), it is now being confirmed that IBM not only lobbies for software patents but that it is also bullying TurboHercules with software patents (in Europe!).

Florian Mueller has just uploaded the following document, which led the president of the FFII to saying that “IBM [is] threatening Open Source Mainframe emulator with software patents…”

IBM letter dated 11 March 2010 to TurboHercules SAS

Scroll down to the list of patents.

Mueller writes that “IBM is using patent warfare in order to protect its highly lucrative mainframe monopoly against Free and Open Source Software.” He argues that “IBM breaks the number one taboo of the FOSS community and shamelessly uses its patents [...] This betrayal of the promise is unbelievable, but I never believed that IBM was sincere about that pledge in the first place.”

Some might suggest that Mueller is acting as a front for Microsoft, but regardless of all that, just looking at the original complaint against TurboHercules, IBM is clearly being a bully. Those recent suggestions that IBM can/should buy Novell are therefore worth a second look. With SCO cartoons abound [1, 2], this is no joking matter. Novell is up for sale (part of the reason we transition names) and it would be undesirable for a patent bully to acquire Novell’s patents.

Regarding that Novell acquisition, longtime SCO booster Paul Murphy is at it again, connecting this to SCO [1, 2] and leading to a timely rant from Groklaw:

I confess I have been cracking myself up this time by reading old Rob Enderle, Paul Murphy, and Maureen O’Gara articles I had saved from the early days, each predicting solemnly Linux’s doom. I can’t tell you how much *more* fun it is to read them now than when they first showed up in 2003 and 2004. Remember Why SCO Should Win? Or O’Gara publishing Dan Wallace’s letter supporting SCO’s then-theory that the GPL was unConstitutional? Here’s a law professor’s answer to Wallace, by the way, for those who are new.

Ah, those were the days, weren’t they? It’s so pleasurable to reread all the heady nonsense SCO and its supporters were spewing. My favorite was Murphy promising to quit if SCO lost. Of course, he hasn’t. He’s still at it. Would you like to see his new dire prediction? He seems to think Elliot Management is a front for Microsoft or some other player who can buy SUSE and the copyrights, and then go after Red Hat and you and me.

Oh goody. Some new FUD. Let’s enter, temporarily, then Murphy’s alternate universe, because he forgot one detail. Well. Two.

It’s not entirely impossible. Actually, it seems rather likely unless some company like IBM steps in (it’s a lot cheaper than Sun). Would that be any better given that IBM endorsed Novell’s patent deal with Microsoft?

Update: The FFII has just published the original letter as PNG images.

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8 Comments

  1. uberVU - social comments said,

    April 6, 2010 at 4:26 am

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Identica by schestowitz: New leak shows that #IBM not only lobbies to keep software patents, but that it also uses them against rivals http://ur1.ca/tnf1 #swpat…

  2. dyfet said,

    April 6, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Gravatar

    I suspect the existence and availability of the Hercules emulator is the primary reason there exists S/390 support in the Linux kernel and in any case a large body of GNU/Linux packages ported to or otherwise tested for it, including of course Debian s390. IBM itself has made substantial money selling and supporting GNU/Linux on S/390.

  3. Agent_Smith said,

    April 6, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Gravatar

    I hate to say this, but some posts ago I commented IBM, Micro$oft, crApple, are all fruits from the same tree, and can not be trusted. Now, more evidences surface…

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    We have warned about IBM for some time.

    Chips B. Malroy Reply:

    I would not put IBM in the same class as MS and Apple. Somehow, this company while not close to perfect, has a relationship with supporting Linux that few corporations do. Is IBM greedy? Yes, but I believe there have been limits to their greed in the past, that would not have stopped the folks running MS and Apple. Remember the promise of IBM to its business customers that it would release and support OS/2? IBM did that even though it was not a money maker after Warp 3, to keep its word. Yes, its right to point out the bad that IBM is doing, but they have at times taking a moral high ground that MS will never be able to look up and see.

    As far as the patents, yes I can see IBM wanting to have the same nukes as MS, Apple, and others to take to court if need be. While we would be far better off without software patents, perhaps, in the rights hands, software patents could be a threat against those who also use them as a weapon. IBM contributes to the linux kernel, so it does help us. Of course, the fact that many IBM mainframes run Linux, and that IBM is big on supporting (service and setup) many fortune 500 corps with Linux (mainly Red Hat) systems is a source of wealth to them. As long as GNU/Linux and IBM have common goals there should be no problems.

    As far as Novell being bought by IBM, MS, Apple, Google, whoever, we will see. Its hard to see who is behind the Elliot bid, as the investors are private. Which sorts of makes MS unlikely, as a public corporation MS would most likely have to account for that money if it was in Elliot. Still, that does not stop private individuals like some of the ones that founded MS, or maybe their fronts, from being behind Elliot. Still its unlikely, the most likely case is Elliot is simply raiding to increase profit, and would really only buy Novell if the price is cheap.

    What exactly makes Novell a deal to buy? Suse? Well, its not Red Hat, but it might have a future, as its breaking even now and is the 2nd most profitable commercial business Linux desktop system. Oddly enough the bidding for Novell came about the same time as Novell got clear title in court to the Unix copyrights. My guess is that Elliot thinks the Unix copyrights are worth something.

    IBM has been suggested as a buyer of Novell, but I do not see it. First of all, IBM was and is prepared to go forward in the SCO case, as there is no Unix code in Linux that is not legal. So the Unix copyrights as a weapon to sue IBM and others for code in Linux are not worth beans. But they might be worth something as a scare (PR) tactic by MS. Wasn’t this what many people thought MS did by funding SCO so it was able to continue suing for seven years? So the Unix copyrights might mean something to MS as another weapon to scare users, and possilbly a way to get back into the Unix business. Even Suse would be a plus for MS, as they were selling Suse coupons to businesses. MS however, is faced with the idea that they would become another Linux distro, and I doubt they would buy Novell for this reason.

    IBM might buy Novell for the reason that they would save court costs by ended once and for all the SCO case. Other than that, IBM if it was going buy a distro, would look hard at Red Hat.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Still its unlikely, the most likely case is Elliot is simply raiding to increase profit, and would really only buy Novell if the price is cheap.

    Given the leap/prod it gave to the stock, Singer has already made over 20% of his investment.

    IBM might buy Novell for the reason that they would save court costs by ended once and for all the SCO case. Other than that, IBM if it was going buy a distro, would look hard at Red Hat.

    IBM is said to have looked at it for months. But it’s just rumours.

    Chips B. Malroy Reply:

    “IBM is said to have looked at it for months. But it’s just rumours.”
    ————————————————————————————————
    IBM most likely looking for a bargain, is all. Its really only 800 million, the Singer bid, when you really do the numbers.

    I doubt Google is interested in it, even though they have plenty of money. Just don’t see where Google buying Novell helps them.

    Now Apple, I do see a match. However I think Jobs will overlook it, as he thinks too much in the niche and has to have high profits. And Apple buying Novell, would be worst than MS getting it. Apple might like the Unix copyrights, as it acts like a patent troll more and more. Plus OS X is based on Unix (BSD). Suse can be of use to Apple. If Apple wanted its own linux distro it could modify and put on low end laptops to go after MS. By using an Apple labeled Linux, it could make a cheaper product, and keep its OS X line as a huge profit maker without reducing prices on higher end mac computers. Not all would be bad though if Apple bought Novell and promoted Suse on cheaper Mac units, or Mac Arm Laptops.

    Speaking of cheaper Apples, there is the Ipad. No matter what you or I think of how bad a product the Ipad is, there seems to be buyers for it. The question I have is what effect a $500 Ipad will have on Windows OEM’s laptops costing $500 and about in the short term?

    What is left to play out in the possible Novell sale? The white knight buyer?

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Apple is not compatible with Novell’s assets (‘portfolio’). SAP and HP would make more sense.

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