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Open Invention Network Acting More Like a Satellite of IBM and It's Based Around the Corner From IBM

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Apr 04, 2024

Open Invention Network CEO Jerry Rosenthal

Image (photograph) source: XTECH

Related: Open Source Initiative (OSI) Co-founder Bruce Perens: Open Invention Network (OIN) is Protecting the Software Patent System From Reform and OSI Approves Faux 'Open' Licences (Openwashing)

THE man on the left is not known to many people, especially not to young people, but he likely contributed a lot to suppression of activism against software patents. He wants Free software folks to coexist with software patents. That's impossible. Everyone knows that. But it's about optics, not reality. Remember what OIN did when a notorious patent troll had taken on GNOME. It did not even bother dismantling the software patent. Instead OIN et al settled. The troll could go on and on. This served to legitimise the troll's "portfolio". We wrote a lot about it back then. The slugfest (GNOME Foundation) was fine with this outcome. It even boasted about it just months after running or participating in a campaign of defamation against the founder of Free software. It's not hard to see who controls (bankrolls) the GNOME Foundation. It's about subservience, not leadership, as we explained a few hours ago. The same applies to OIN.

How useful is OIN to us? Who does it protect and who from? It's basically like a "Soviet Union of patents"... you may be safe as long as you're community communist. It's like some prestigious and exclusive golf club. The current CEO of OIN plays tennis with elite bankers and politicians, so you get the drift...

These people don't know what a community really is and they never wrote any code. They cannot.

Yesterday we wrote about layoffs in NC (at IBM) and OIN's long arm inside Europe (via FSFE). So where exactly does OIN come from and who does it serve today?

To better understand OIN and its relationship/connection to IBM we need go back to its roots. As one of half a dozen founding members, IBM is by far the most powerful and influential. In fact, the first CEO (see "Jerry Rosenthal becomes 1st CEO" in the official site; this became an empty page) is just some IBM person. Gerald Rosenthal, not Jerry, is how he was described in the alleged "journal of record", painting OIN as a "Company", saying it was "based in Pound Ridge, N.Y." Here are relevant bits:

The company has the financial backing of five technology and consumer electronics companies -- I.B.M., Novell, Philips, Red Hat and Sony -- who share an interest in promoting the spread and adoption of the free Linux operating system.

The chief executive of the Open Invention Network, Gerald Rosenthal, is a lawyer and a former director of I.B.M.'s intellectual property licensing program.

At I.B.M., Mr. Rosenthal led the lucrative technology-licensing program, which has routinely earned $1 billion or more in recent years. He will be pursuing a different strategy at the new company.

"By itself, this is not a money-making enterprise," he said. "Our goal is to enable the Linux ecosystem to grow."


Novell, a Linux distributor, is placing those patents in the new portfolio of the Open Invention Network, based in Pound Ridge, N.Y.

Wikipedia says that the Open Invention Network is no longer there, as does the official site. It says "Open Invention Network (OIN) is an intellectual property rights company based in Durham, United States."

From their own Web site

Open Invention Network address

Notice it's right next to the IBM "campus" (where many layoffs are expected later this month). The proximity is uncanny.

The original CEO is probably still around, maybe retired (based on what he looked like in XTECH 19 years ago he's probably in his 70s or 80s now). It's very hard to find any more information about Gerald Rosenthal, or Jerry as some called him in 2005. It's like he vanished after OIN, having 'made a splash' in 2005 (almost 20 years ago). One old page says:

Led by CEO Jerry Rosenthal, former Vice President of IBM's Intellectual Property and Licensing business, the partnership will build a collection of patents and "offer them royalty-free to promote Linux and spur innovation."

Anonymous comment in Groklaw:

At IBM (and I suspect at other corporations, too) there is a steadily-increasing pile of 'end-of-life products' such as VisualAge Smallalk

If you go to your IBM salesman and ask to buy a licence, you will be told 'No'. (I guess if you waved enough money, the answer would change.) So, it's not possible for IBM to make money from VisualAge Smalltalk, the way it is at the moment.

Potentially, though, if IBM were to put the source code for VisualAge Smalltalk on 'sourceforge', then someone might sign a contract with IBM's Serivices arm, and IBM might start making money from VisualAge Smalltalk again. So, potentially, there is a business driver to open-source it.

I'm told that the reason for not open-sourcing it is 'it would be expensive for the necessary legal review'; i.e. IBM might have 3rd-party obligations with respect to some of the code, which would need to be chased down and extinguished before IBM could even give the thing away.

So, question for Open Invention Network. "Is it possible to establish a 'safe harbor', where corporations such as IBM could place the source code for products which used to be commercial software but which have been withdrawn from marketing ?"

It's a potential treasure trove of 'prior art', since much of this stuff is ancient ... more than 20 years old, so even if it was patented then the patents would have expires.

Also a potential treasure trove to build new stuff on.

Notice the following bits about IBM

This approach of donating patents to the Open Source community is one that IBM adopted some time ago and which fits neatly into its Systems Agenda wherein “Collaboration” is a key driver. For its part, IBM has announced a pledge of open access to “all needed IBM patents”, to implementers of targeted industry software interoperability standards that compliantly use web services, open document formats and electronic form specifications. Initially IBM will focus on healthcare and education standards—areas where it believes innovation and interoperability are urgently required. Once again IBM makes it clear that anyone wishing to make use of its patents must agree not to assert their intellectual property against other implementations of these industry standards.

Whilst OIN is not driven to make profits, it is clear that the vendors supporting its creation expect to gain some benefits, albeit somewhat indirectly. As IBM stated, the pledging of elements of its intellectual property portfolio can certainly help accelerate the developments, which should result in measurable improvements in the way healthcare and education are delivered around the world. However, the company expects to garner new revenue opportunities for itself and its partners by promoting such a standard based strategy.

In conclusion, OIN is a shadow of IBM, it is near to IBM (based in the same area), it was run by an IBM person in its first few years, and it adopts IBM's policy on software patents, i.e. it is in favour of them (or prefers not to talk about this subject). Don't get infatuated with or ever rely on OIN; it's meant to protect IBM et al, not us the community or ordinary developers not affiliated with monopolists. OIN is a reaction to grassroots; it's hoping to replace activists with 'suits' beholden to corporate masters.

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