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IBM Might Pay Microsoft Even More for Imaginary Software Patents (in Linux) Through SUSE/Novell

IBM Netvista



Summary: More evidence that IBM is indifferent if not somewhat complicit when it comes to Microsoft's patent racket

IBM is said to be part of what Pieter Hintjens (former president of the FFII) rightly or at least appropriately called "the conspiracy of silence". IBM makes around a billion dollars per year from patents alone. The shareholders love it.



IBM is a very discreet company that rarely speaks to the outside world, especially regarding issues like its patent policy*. This feeling is shared amongst other people whom we've been in touch with. To question IBM about software patents is somewhat of a taboo and blind faithful followers of IBM would tell off anyone who tries.

“IBM is a very discreet company that rarely speaks to the outside world, especially regarding issues like its patent policy.”IBM was right there when Novell and Microsoft signed their patent deal which explicitly involved GNU/Linux. IBM was also there to help Novell acquire S.u.S.E., which was strongly against software patents. As a reminder, Novell brags about having the most software patents per employee, as though it's somewhat of a merit (Microsoft too is emphasising patents now, with somewhere around 85% of them being patents on software).

IBM's relationship with SLES is nothing news. Most IBM mainframes already use it, but IBM takes this relationship further with this announcement which brings with it a dose of discomfort.

Novell’s SUSE Linux has beaten Red Hat to an IBM alliance in the area of software appliances.

The two companies announced today that IBM is delivering a portfolio of “software appliances” under a variety of IBM brands, powered by Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.


This has been brewing for a while. Bob Sutor has just posted this link about his appearance in BrainShare 2010.

While I was at Novell’s BrainShare conference last month in Salt Lake City, I sat down with Tom Crabb, Novell’s Enablement Manager and recorded a video. The topic was IT appliances, specifically virtual software appliances. You can see it here on Novell’s website.


These appliances are based at least in part on OpenSUSE; and yet, that too is made liable and comes with burden from Microsoft (which IBM cross-licenses with, so it's OK as long as you are IBM).

It's time for IBM to come clean. It's nothing to do with TurboHercules. It's about that old "conspiracy of silence". IBM should be as transparent as it claims its code to be. But it's not. And it doesn't seem to mind Microsoft's abuse of software patents [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7], unless it can twist it in some way to support IBM's position (i.e. making more money). IBM's patent pool has just grown a little bigger with the addition of NHN Corporation.

Open Invention Network (OIN), the company formed to enable and protect Linux, today extended the Linux ecosystem with the signing of NHN Corporation as a licensee. By becoming a licensee, NHN has joined the growing list of companies that recognize the importance of participating in a substantial community of Linux supporters and leveraging the Open Invention Network to further spur open source innovation.


What better things can IBM do? It can help abolish software patents along with the rest of the software industry (most developers reject software patents), rather than help them be for its own selfish benefit.

"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

___ * Google and Apple are rather secretive too, more so than Microsoft.

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