What Does It Say When The World's Largest Patent Holder Sees Problems With The System?

from the seems-telling dept

The world’s most prolific patent filer, IBM, is taking steps to address what it sees as significant flaws in the patent system. Under a new policy, the company will be more open about what patents it holds, post filed patents to the web before they’re accepted by the patent office, and stand opposed to broad, business-model patents that don’t represent any technical innovation. CEO Sam Palmisano nicely lays out the business case for patent reform, “The larger picture here is that intellectual property is the crucial capital in a global knowledge economy. If you need a dozen lawyers involved every time you want to do something, it’s going to be a huge barrier. We need to make sure that intellectual property is not used as a barrier to growth in the future.” The company acknowledges that by posting its patent applications to the web, years in advance of when the patent is accepted, it’s tipping off its competitors as to what technologies the company is working on. But ceding this competitive advantage is a small price to pay, if the overall technology market grows because of it. In fact, having competitors develop competing and complementary technologies to IBM’s is critical to developing a thriving ecosystem. In this light, it shouldn’t be surprising that a company with a history of innovation, like IBM, lead the way on patent reform. The current system is fraught with risks, including the possibility that less innovative firms will use the patent weapon to extract money from it, rather than actually bringing innovative products to market. Of course, it doesn’t seem like IBM will slow down their own patent applications any time soon. There’s still a defensive case for filing patents as inoculation against future lawsuits. But it’s good to see such an influential company moving in this direction. Hopefully more of its peers will follow suit.

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Comments on “What Does It Say When The World's Largest Patent Holder Sees Problems With The System?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Well, I have to say that this enlightens the basic freedom of the ability to change an antiquated system without the need for governmental changes to the constitution.

It makes me very happy to see a company, without the basis for reforming their models, make the right choices to create a new industry worthwhile, without hurting themselves.

Way to go, IBM! You really have proven that without a large need for expectations, there will always be the ability to do the right thing in association with the communties knowledge and appreciation of the special intentions.

Mousky (user link) says:

Re: Good idea...

This move would force IBM to make sure their patenting the good stuff.

Nothing wrong with that. Since a patent is a government-granted monopoly, patents should be good ideas, not broadly written ideas. Patents should be of a high quality. They should add real value to society not just the patent holder. They should not prevent competition.

IBM is taking a big leap of faith in this profit driven world.

True, but they are also looking at reducing their costs relating to patent litigation. Keep in mind that if a patent is of a high-quality it will likely have a high value. The current patent system does not reward truly unique ideas. It rewards those who sit on broadly worded patents.

Sarah says:

IBM and their kind= more muscle to clean out compe

So does that mean if patents are exposed than the company who brings the innovative product to market first wins? Isn’t usually the case that the bigger companies with muscle will have the advantage regardless if they though of the innovated process?

Good luck start-up companies. May the force be with you ;o

Anonymous Coward says:

Thank you IBM

This is refreshing new given the findings of the WEF and the U.S.’ tumble with regards to Global Economic Competitiveness (what? debt is bad? who knew?): http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/5381428.stm

While the U.S. is still #1 in technological innovation, we are at risk of losing that edge as well. This really opens doors for people to open their minds.

Thank you IBM for providing a ray of hope through the clouds of madness …

Savio Rodrigues (user link) says:

Great 1st step - now for the encore

As an IBMer at heart, this is awesome. Especially the part about excluding ‘business methods’ without technical specifics.

Now, I’d love to see IBM pledge that they won’t enforce any current IBM patent that would have fallen into this bucket during the past, say 5 years.

That would be real leadership (not that today’s announcement isn’t!).


gimpydwarf says:

You all buy the BS?

IBM has made billions of dollars because of the open architechture or the IBM PC. Being open with it’s developing projects only makes sense. The more people that develope products that utilize IBM’s products, the more money that IBM makes.

Although patent law is in dire need of revamping, don’t mistake IBM’s motives. It’s not about making the world a better place, it’s about revenue.

|33173|3|_||3 says:

Re: You all buy the BS?

I agree about the motive, but i think thier press release has a point (as does alll of techdirt). IBM would not be where it is today without its openness and using standard architecture (look at what happened when they tried using closed standards on thier desktops, i.e. no-one bought them, they just used updated clones of older IBMs, which IBM then returned to). HTis is sound business sense, and If M$ started to do this more, they could probably retrive some of the ground lost to Linux in the Server market.

48159 says:

Intellectual property is not capital in any form.
You can turn it into capital if you put into practice draconian laws that turn any idea into a monopoly.
Innovation and practical applications of an idea represent the real capital.
An idea if not put into practice or harnessed and spread is worthless.
And innovation allows to be ahead of competition, IP laws as such see innovation as something stagnant or that goes ahead in jumps and bumps, this truly false. Innovation is a continuous process built on all of the amassed knowledge.

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