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Friday, January 21, 2005

Gartner News Analysis on IBM's Open Source Move

On January 11, 2005, IBM "pledged open access to key innovations covered by 500 IBM software patents to individuals and groups working on open source software." (Press Release, List of Pledged Patents (PDF))

The pledge is applicable to any individual, community, or company working on or using software that meets the Open Source Initiative (OSI) definition of open source software now or in the future.

IBM intends for this pledge to form the basis of an industry-wide "patent commons" in which patents are used to establish a platform for further innovations in areas of broad interest to information technology developers and users.


Gartner views the move as lending "long-term viability to the principles of open source, encourages open-source innovation by smaller and startup independent software vendors." Additionally, "IBM's latest move puts new pressure on Microsoft - indirectly casting it as a proprietary alternative to the industry's open-software movement."

By referring to the OSI, IBM casts it as the definitive open-source organization.
The move is reminiscent of Novell's announcement last October to "utilize its patent portfolio to defend against potential intellectual property attacks by others on its open source products." Novell said that this Patent Policy "serves to reassure customers that they can choose open source solutions with confidence, knowing they have strong backing from Novell on patent issues."

One commentator wonders whether Novell's Patent Policy is a "Maginot Line."

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