[Fsfe-ie] IBM offers patents to Open Source projects

Éibhear ifso at gibiris.org
Thu Jan 13 14:14:16 CET 2005

David O'Callaghan said:
> It's difficult to know how to respond to this. Accepting this offer
essentially means accepting software idea patents. Although they may be
offering these 500 "technologies", they're still getting almost 9 new
patents a day on average: If you accept the validity of the 500 patents,
presumably you must also implicitly accept the validity of their other

Your advice is probably right. However, IBM is no longer the bad boy of
the industry. The manner in which it is defending itself against SCO (i.e.
fighting it tooth-and-nail rather than just buying SCO and putting it out
of its misery) has highlighted that free software is likely an important
investment to it. Also, this is hot on the heels of Novell announcing that
it will use its patent portfolio to protect free software projects from
aggression in that area ("Wanna sue GNOME for violating your
'double-click' patent? Gotta come through us first!"). I strongly suspect
that we'll be seeing more moves from these two away from traditional
software patent management during 2005.

I can see three groups in the pro-software patent lobby: Those who haven't
taken the time out to consider the subtleties; those who are in the
pockets (in one way or another) of the big industry players; and those big
industry players. The latter group wants to inhibit free software
development and deployment so that it's no longer a threat to their
business models. The other groups know little about this and care less.
Novell and IBM are beginning the process of educating these two groups in
the hope, I suppose, of winning over those who haven't taken the time out
to consider the subtleties.


Éibhear Ó hAnluain

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