06.10.20

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The Only Thing Worse Than Proprietary Software Companies is Proprietary Software Companies That Patent Algorithms

Posted in Free/Libre Software, IBM, Patents, Red Hat at 1:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

More so those that leverage such patents to sue rivals and non-rivals, even in the age of 35 U.S.C. § 101

IBM lawsuits persist in 2020 (over patents)
IBM lawsuits persist in 2020 (over patents)

Summary: The development of proprietary software is troubling because of its effects on society; more corrosive are monopolistic lawsuits, which cause companies to lay off staff (except lawyers)

THE recent focus on IBM (or Red hat) isn’t a case of (nit)picking. IBM has long been problematic, not just because it uses dubious patents to shake down a lot of companies but because IBM is actively lobbying for software patents in the US, software patents in Europe, and software patents in India.

“IBM, we believe, can survive and thrive by shifting to Free software the way Sun attempted to do (before Oracle killed much of what it had done). At the moment IBM still develops loads of proprietary software.”IBM has been pretty shameless about it. As for Red Hat, a decade and a half ago it openly opposed such patents, but in more recent years it pursued lots of these while offering empty assurances (before IBM scooped up all these patents). It’s not exactly shocking that Red Hat under IBM finds more commonalities (and partnerships) with Microsoft. IBM isn’t even a Free software company, unlike Red Hat. IBM isn’t quite evil (the FSF will never dare insinuate that; check how much money IBM gave the FSF), but IBM isn’t benign either. Days ago, after endless backlash, the new CEO of IBM finally (perhaps belatedly) decided to quit the face recognition business, unlike Amazon and Microsoft. We hope he will do the same to the company’s patent strategy. They could lay off lots of lawyers instead of engineers (thousands of layoffs are coming).

IBM, we believe, can survive and thrive by shifting to Free software the way Sun attempted to do (before Oracle killed much of what it had done). At the moment IBM still develops loads of proprietary software.

“If IBM quits pushing proprietary software and quits pushing companies around using threats of litigation (and sometimes actual patent lawsuits), IBM will be treated a lot more favourably by software developers.”“[I]t doesn’t excuse developing proprietary software. A desire for profit is not wrong in itself, but it isn’t the sort of urgent overriding cause that could excuse mistreating others. Proprietary software divides the users and keeps them helpless, and that is wrong. Nobody should do that,” Richard Stallman once said.

If IBM quits pushing proprietary software and quits pushing companies around using threats of litigation (and sometimes actual patent lawsuits), IBM will be treated a lot more favourably by software developers. The whole mindset of proprietary software is aging anyway; in many cases proprietary software becomes just abandonware — to remain totally abandoned unless or until it becomes Free software (see what EA did last month, even if the engineers made an error by outsourcing the code to Microsoft).

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