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IBM Patent Bombshell: "The Windows Patent Strategy Is...Over," Says Groklaw
The Largest Pledge of Patents in U.S. History
By: Jeremy Geelan
Jan. 11, 2005 12:00 AM
"The landscape just changed....Thank you, IBM. Thank you," writes Groklaw's editor-in-chief Pamela Jones, heralding the announcement yesterday that IBM will today announce that it's making 500 of its software patents freely available to anyone working on open-source projects like Linux.
"The Windows patent strategy is so over," adds PJ. "And the next time Bill Gates tries to call this new kind of software development a kind of modern-day communism, as he did so offensively the other day, people will simply laugh in his face."
The IBM plan, announced late yesterday, is to donate the 500 patents for free use by software developers - a move which Reuters immediately reported as "marking a major shift of intellectual property strategy for the world's top computer maker and a challenge to the high-tech industry."
Jim Stallings, IBM's vice president in charge of intellectual property, said in an interview - Reuters added -that the move was meant to encourage other companies to unlock patent portfolios in order to spur technological innovation.
The news agency drily noted that the donation "coincides with an announcement by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that IBM topped the list of annual patent recipients for the 12th straight year, with 3,248 patents -- or 1,314 more patents than No. 2-ranked Matsushita of Japan, known for its Panasonic brand."
Meantime the Washington Post is reporting his morning that Microsoft "has embarked on a campaign to quickly acquire as many software patents as possible. The effort is being led by Marshall Phelps, who spent more than 20 years at IBM and was the architect of its patent strategy."
Microsoft, the Post notes somewhat understatedly, "has warned customers that open-source software could infringe on Microsoft's patents."
The pledged patents have been posted on IBM's Web site at http://www.ibm.com/ibm/licensing/patents/pledgedpatents.pdf and the company says in its accompanyng statement:
IBM's Legally Binding Commitment Not To Assert the 500 Named Patents Against OSSEarly speculation among the FOSS community includes the thought that this move by IBM might be the start of a 'viral' subversion of the patent system, in just the way that the GPL arguably is for copyright.
"Imagine a time in a few years, where a lot of companies have done the same thing that IBM does," says for example Andrew Giddings, a UK software developer. "Each of those companies is then committed to the OSS patent pool, and can't threaten any OSS with a lawsuit on any particular patent without losing access to all the rest. And of course, the more companies that join in, the more patents are in the pool, and the more attractive it becomes.'
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