While 500 patents is a pretty small number for a company like IBM, the fact that they're opening up that many patents for open source use clearly shows a major shift in the way the company thinks about intellectual property -- and other companies would be wise to pay attention. While patent hoarding is still getting more attention, IBM has realized that being overly protective of intellectual property actually harms innovation. Not everything you have a patent on is core to your business -- and stimulating growth in areas outside your core business can often open up plenty of new opportunities within that core. That's what IBM has realized -- and it's exactly what plenty of other companies refuse to recognize. In other words, despite what some people keep saying, "free" actually is a great way to promote innovation and build up economic value while opening up new opportunities. Either that, or maybe IBM is just run by communists.
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