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IBM Turns Into More of a Patent Troll Amid Layoffs, Gradual Demise of Real Products

Summary: IBM turns out to be using software patents in order to make money at the expense of much smaller companies; the threat of software patents resurfaces in India

IBM, the company which promotes software patents in Europe. is reportedly going after relatively small companies (not Sun) with patent demands. Citing this report, an expert in this area (Mullin) says: "Twitter's first annual financial results were revealed on Thursday. Buried deep in the document is the price it paid IBM after it was confronted with a patent infringement threat by Big Blue: $36 million. Bloomberg was first to highlight the price tag.



"IBM sent a letter to Twitter in November saying it was infringing at least three IBM patents. That resulted in a negotiation that ended up with Twitter getting a license to IBM's patents, acquiring about 900 of them for itself, and (we now know) paying $36 million."

Shame on IBM.

Just as the US begins thinking about getting rid of software patents the #1 patent holder in the US (whose former staff headed the USPTO until recently) takes us back in time, demonstrating that IBM (with OIN) is not much different from those patent trolls we keep hearing about (OIN is powerless against trolls as well). Here is a new report about a troll: "Personal Audio LLC has recently become one of the more well-known "patent trolls" due to its broad claims to owning basic podcasting technology. The company has filed lawsuits in East Texas, claiming that its patents on "episodic content" technology, which stem from founder Jim Logan's failed "Magazines on Tape" business, entitle it to royalties from podcasters large and small."

How is that so different from what IBM is doing? iophk says: "Burning through the EFF's scant resources playing whack-a-mole with patent trolls. That won't do anything to solve the underlying problem which is that of patenting software. Get rid of software patents and the trolls will be gone."

There is actually a correlation between software patents and trolls, as demonstrated by Mullin some years ago. Many boosters of software patents are also trolls (Microsoft, IBM and Nokia for example) and many trolls are using software patents in litigation (about 70% of the time).

IBM recently laid off many employees in India (we covered this thoroughly) as it's moving into more of a surveillance business [1,2] (IBM is already a surveillance giant) and considers offloading more of its hardware business [3]. Meanwhile, suggests this new post. the threat of software patents in India is back. Spicy IP says: "The reason why I am limiting the issue only to the term software per se is because of the recent discussions draft guidelines issued by our Patent Office on the topic, and the subsequent discussions on the same."

The term "software per se" is similar to the phrase "as such" in Europe or even New Zealand. It is a trick. To quote further: "As we know that the term per se did not come into the act directly. It came in on the recommendation of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (“JPC”). The JPC inserted the term to address the patentability of inventions relating to computer programs that may include certain other things that were ‘ancillary thereto’ or ‘developed thereon’. Accordingly, if computer programs per se are not patentable, something that is ancillary thereto or developed thereon is patentable."

This is bad and it deserves more media attention. Much of the anti-software patents lobby, however, is quiet or defunct now, in part because corporations hijacked the debate and shifted focus to small trolls (not large ones like Microsoft, Nokia, and IBM).

Related/contextual items from the news:


  1. IBM 'as a service' cloud pieces fall into place
    IBM has acquired a bevy of cloud companies and built a Big Blue cloud stack. Here's a look at the moving parts and how they fit together as IBM moves from hardware to the cloud.


  2. IBM in the Cloud: More Method Than Meets the Eye?


  3. IBM reportedly considering sale of chip manufacturing operations
    IBM is considering a sale of its chip manufacturing operations, the Wall Street Journal reported last night. The company would not stop designing its own chips, however. Just as AMD outsources manufacturing of the chips it designs, IBM "is looking for a buyer for its manufacturing operations, but plans to retain its chip-design capability," according to the Journal's source.


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