Already missing Samuel Palmisano…
The “good guy”, before and after the patent aggression era at IBM. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore
Summary: IBM, which boasts the world’s largest patent portfolio, is transforming into a patent aggressor (with software patents to make matters even worse) and negative reaction from the market may be needed to put an end to this
IBM spent well over a decade telling the Free/Open Source software (FOSS) world that IBM is the “good cop”, or that its stockpile of software patents was somehow acceptable because of OIN (originally run by a guy from IBM) or something along those lines. Well, the mask is off now. IBM is becoming a patents company, a close partner of Apple (Android foe), and it is eager to make income from patents rather than products. As IAM put it the other day (IAM on IBM): “The assignments involving Globalfoundries entities probably reveal the company’s acquisition of IBM’s semiconductor unit – a deal for which Big Blue paid almost $1.5 billion to wash its hands of what had become, for it, an unsustainable business. IBM itself was the second most prolific assignor of assets (15,260) last year.”
A lot of these IBM patents can now be used offensively by other companies, not just Globalfoundries but many others too. This is bad news because IBM’s patents head honcho is pushing for software patents [1, 2] (expansion of them to more countries) and then suing with them (we covered patent aggression from IBM last week). This is what typically happens when patent holders get desperate for cash.
“IBM can now basically sue just about any Internet company, including tiny ones, or otherwise receive “protection money”.”“According to the most recent complaint,” WIPR wrote, “IBM has made repeated attempts to negotiate a licence with Groupon but the company has refused to take one.”
To “licence” is a euphemism for “get protection money” and it sure sounds like Microsoft’s modus operandi when it comes to Linux. Good journalists noted that “IBM is pushing big Internet companies to pay patent licensing fees in part because IBM invented the Prodigy service, a precursor to the modern Web.”
IBM can now basically sue just about any Internet company, including tiny ones, or otherwise receive “protection money”. This leads to a certain chilling effect and discourages startups.
“There are no “good” or tolerable software patents. When companies are in good (financial) mood their shareholders don’t encourage suing competitors, but watch what’s becoming of IBM.”There are companies out there, such as Google, which despite getting more and more patents (including software patents and other new examples) never sued other companies with patents, not even when provoked. This does not guarantee, however, that when Google suffers its demise (all companies will die one day), especially if that happens within the timeframe of the next two decades, it will actually refrain from resorting to patent aggression. The only real solution here is to abolish software patents, irrespective of whom they get assigned to (whether to Red Hat with GNU/Linux, IBM with OIN and layoffs, or Google which is thriving at least for now). There are no “good” or tolerable software patents. When companies are in good (financial) mood their shareholders don’t encourage suing competitors, but watch what’s becoming of IBM. █