IBM Breaks Promise; Threatens Open Source Company Over Patents

from the so-much-for-'reform' dept

For a while now, IBM has been positioning itself as being in favor of really fixing our broken patent system (even as it's remained at the top of the food chain in terms of companies filing for patents). However, we've always been a bit skeptical of IBM's claims about this -- as they quite often seemed to be more of a PR positioning move, rather than any real commitment to fixing the patent system. Almost exactly five years ago, the company made a big stink about freeing up approximately 500 patents for use in open source offerings. At the time, even that seemed like more of a PR stunt than anything else, but still, you'd at least think they'd live up to their word.

Not so apparently.

Slashdot points us to the news that IBM has threatened an open source project with some patents -- including two that were in that list of 500 (along with over 100 others). In the past, when IBM's nastier patent activities have gained attention in the tech-blog world, it's been known to back down, so it wouldn't surprise me to see that happen again here. But the fact that it made this threat in the first place, yet again, calls into question IBM's real commitment towards moving away from supporting patents as a bullying tool.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Brooks (profile), Apr 6th, 2010 @ 6:14pm

    I tell ya

    It's pretty ridiculous that a company as small as IBM sometimes comes off as uncoordinated, and like the left hand doesn't know what the right's doing.

    You'd think every one of their employees -- there're only four hundred thousand or so of 'em, after all -- would know the company's stance on patents and open source. It's not like tiny companies like that have trouble disseminating organizational knowledge.

    Shame on them!

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 6:31pm

      Re: I tell ya

      Yeah, why would the people in charge of threatening companies with patent lawsuits know anything about IBM's public stance on patents!?!?

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 10:45pm

      Re: I tell ya

      It's pretty ridiculous that a company as small as IBM sometimes comes off as uncoordinated, and like the left hand doesn't know what the right's doing.

      Your Honor, I'm not guilty of shoplifting that item with my left hand. You see, my left hand actually though my right had paid for it! There are billions of cells in my body so you can't really expect each one of them to know what all the others are doing, can you? That would be ridiculous! Surely you can see how this was just a simple case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.

      Sound about right?

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 6:48pm

    What do you expect from a company founded my a Nazi supporter...

     

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    identicon
    mj, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 6:56pm

    not really shocked

    Ever hear about the little computer company that helped the Nazis systematically carry out the holocost?

    http://www.ibmandtheholocaust.com/

     

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    •  
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      Christopher Weigel (profile), Apr 6th, 2010 @ 8:17pm

      Re: not really shocked

      Oof. Godwin's law twice in the first 6 posts. And you, mj, don't have any excuse... it was already brought up once in the thread.

       

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        The Groove Tiger (profile), Apr 7th, 2010 @ 12:37am

        Re: Re: not really shocked

        Godwin's Law merely predicts the likelihood that a Nazi analogy will appear, not whether said analogy is valid or that it invalidates automatically any argument.

        FAIL

         

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    Designerfx (profile), Apr 6th, 2010 @ 7:18pm

    read up more

    this is spun by anti-ibm crew.

     

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    identicon
    bigpicture, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 7:20pm

    Some Journalistic Research

    I think if you actually do some real journalism you will find that IBM is only protecting themselves by (retaliation) because if I recall reading somewhere that this company (TurboHercules)with MS backing is pushing anti-trust issues on IBM over something proprietary on its mainframes. You know instead of competing by making better products, whine to the government to make IBM let you play with their ball.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 10:52pm

      Re: Some Journalistic Research

      I think if you actually do some real journalism you will find that IBM is only protecting themselves by (retaliation) because if I recall reading somewhere that this company (TurboHercules)with MS backing is pushing anti-trust issues on IBM over something proprietary on its mainframes.

      So you're saying that this is really just IBM retaliating for being caught breaking the law (again)? It would seem to me that if IBM really wants to avoid antitrust charges, they should avoid engaging in the kinds of practices that lead to such charges.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 5:10am

        Re: Re: Some Journalistic Research

        So ... rather than investigate and then draw conclusions, you toss all that silliness aside and just assume one side is high and mighty.

        Excellent

         

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 12:22pm

          Re: Re: Re: Some Journalistic Research

          So ... rather than investigate and then draw conclusions, you toss all that silliness aside and just assume one side is high and mighty.

          You mean like you just did?

          Excellent indeed.

           

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            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 5:24pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Some Journalistic Research

            I made no assumptions. My conclusion was based upon the text within your post, assuming you are the same commenter.
            What was your conclusion based upon?

             

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              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 6:11pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Some Journalistic Research

              I made no assumptions. My conclusion was based upon the text within your post, assuming you are the same commenter.

              Ha, now *that's* funny! (For someone who's making no assumptions, you sure seem to assume a lot!)

               

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      nasch (profile), Apr 7th, 2010 @ 9:14am

      Re: Some Journalistic Research

      Shouldn't they be protecting themselves by offering a sound legal defense against the antitrust suit? Even if you're right, this action still modifies their public patent stance to "we don't support using patents to sue others except when we think we need to do it." Really not very impressive.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 9:57pm

    I thought Goodwin's Law was a bit more defined than that. Nowhere did I see an analogy or comparison between IBM and Nazi Germany. Honestly, you guys should reacquaint yourself with what it is.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law

    If you can't get it right -- You = Fail

     

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    Overcast (profile), Apr 6th, 2010 @ 10:40pm

    Good job 'big blue' - you went from practically the uncontested leader of computing - for a brief time, to patent trolls.

    Kinda 'poetic justice' - all things considered.

     

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    identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 4:54am

    IBM is Threatening with Bad Patents

    The IBM patents seem to be very thin patents. New instructions in a long-established architecture (vintage 1964) are, almost by definition, software functions which were used so often that it was worthwhile to move them to hardware. For example, there are a group of patents for cryptography instructions. They do things like computing a Secure Hash Algorithm digest of a block of data. The underlying cryptographic algorithms are long-published and standardized, otherwise they would be worthless. What IBM filed patents on was the use of particular named registers and bit fields to hold particular parameters.

    It is obvious that if you have a group of names, and a group of numbers, you can pair them up in an arbitrary fashion, and provided you establish a one-to-one correspondence, and use the same correspondence consistently, the system will work. You can perfectly well establish your correspondence by throwing dice, or by writing the names and numbers on index cards, shuffling the two respective decks, and dealing them out. Any reasonable reading of KSR v. Teleflex is going to tend to the view that instruction sets per se are immediately obvious, and, as such, nonpatentable.

    A good example of this is the Intel main processor register set and instruction space, which are notoriously cramped, and tend to squeeze things wherever there is room. The floating-point processor is of course more elegantly laid-out, but that is another story.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 5:13am

      Re: IBM is Threatening with Bad Patents

      Good illustration as to why software patents are completely stupid. Validity of the patent is of no consequence because it is simply a club to beat your opponent with.

       

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    Ronald J Riley (profile), Apr 7th, 2010 @ 7:44am

    IBM, just another greedy transnational destroying US job creation.

    IBM's goal is to fix the patent system to ensure that upstart startups by independent, academic and small business interests cannot rock IBM's boat. When they talk about Patent Reform they are really talking about class warfare and corporate dominance of everyone and everything worldwide.

    IBM floods the patent system with large quantities of minor incremental inventions. One aspect of their vision for Patent Deform is First to File which will greatly aid their efforts to cloud real inventors patent rights. It will lead to patent system flooding, where the number and type of minor incremental patents will greatly increase, further bogging down the patent office.Everyone needs to remember that when IBM followed in Microsoft's footsteps as seems to always be the case nowadays they were really asking for a free pass to take others inventions.

    While I think I understand why TechDIRT carries Microsoft and IBM water I do not understand why people buy their propaganda and then are surprised when the reality of how they and for that matter all the members of the Coalition for Patent Piracy & Fairness and the Coalition for 21st Patent Deform and HARMonization operate surfaces.

    Ronald J. Riley,

    Speaking only on my own behalf.
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 - (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

     

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      nasch (profile), Apr 7th, 2010 @ 9:17am

      Re: IBM, just another greedy transnational destroying US job creation.

      Don't we have a first to file system now?

      While I think I understand why TechDIRT carries Microsoft and IBM water

      You really just refuse to pull your head out, don't you?

       

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      •  
        identicon
        Ronald J. McDonald, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 10:32am

        Re: Re: IBM, just another greedy transnational destroying US job creation.

        I have a patent for that.


        Ronald J. McDonald,


        I am speaking only on my own behalf.
        Affiliations:
        President - www.mcdonalds.org - RJM at McUSA.org
        Executive Director - www.McInventor.org - RJM at McInvEd.org
        Senior Fellow - www.McPatentPolicy.org
        President - Alliance for American Innovation of McDonalds
        Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Mayor McCheese
        Washington, DC
        Direct (810) 555-0194 / (202) 555-1595 - 6 am to 11 pm EST.

         

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          SteelWolf (profile), Apr 7th, 2010 @ 1:23pm

          Re: Re: Re: IBM, just another greedy transnational destroying US job creation.

          For some reason this made me laugh so hard I cried. Thanks, RJM, for bringing cheer to my day.

           

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Apr 7th, 2010 @ 10:34am

      Re: IBM, just another greedy transnational destroying US job creation.

      While I think I understand why TechDIRT carries Microsoft and IBM water

      Ronald, I understand that you like to slam me on every patent post without bothering to comprehend what we're writing, but seriously? We've never "carried Microsoft and IBM water" at all on patent issues -- and, in this very post we are slamming IBM for its practices.

      Do you not even read?

      In the meantime, since I'm surprised you still haven't answered, I need to ask again, when you will be providing us with a single shred of evidence that debunks the research we've posted about patents? I've been asking you every time you comment for about a month now, and you insist that the evidence supports you, so I'm sorta confused why you haven't posted a single bit of it yet.

      I mean, wouldn't that shut me up?

       

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    identicon
    staff, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 7:56am

    "For a while now, IBM has been positioning itself as being in favor of really fixing our broken patent system...Not so apparently."

    Neither IBM nor any of the others pushing for what they call "reform" are trying to fix the patent system.

    Patent reform is a fraud on America. It is patently un-American.
    Please see http://truereform.piausa.org/ for a different/opposing view on patent reform.

     

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      nasch (profile), Apr 7th, 2010 @ 9:18am

      Re:

      Patent reform is a fraud on America. It is patently un-American.

      Say those who stand to benefit from the current system.

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 1:49pm

      Re:

      I'm confused as to why you spend your time mindlessly spamming a link to a website that is massively outdated and that looks like it comes from GeoCities.

       

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