IBM pledges 500 patents to support open source

11 January 2005 — IBM has pledged open access to key innovations covered by 500 IBM software patents to people and groups working on open source software. The pledge applies to any individual, community, or company working on or using software that meets the Open Source Initiative (OSI) definition of open source software.

This is believed to be the largest pledge ever of patents of any kind and represents a major shift in the way IBM manages and deploys its intellectual property portfolio. That portfolio grew by more than 3,000 patents in 2004. In fact, according to United States Patent and Trademark Office, IBM earned more U.S. patents than any other company for the 12th consecutive year. IBM had 1,315 more patents than any other company. This marks the fourth consecutive year IBM has received more than 3,000 U.S. patents, and IBM remains the only company to receive more than 2,000 patents in one year.

�True innovation leadership is about more than just the numbers of patents granted. It’s about innovating to benefit customers, partners and society,� said Dr. John E. Kelly, IBM senior vice president, Technology and Intellectual Property. �Our pledge today is the beginning of a new era in how IBM will manage intellectual property.

�This is not a one-time event,� said Dr. Kelly. �While IBM will continue to demonstrate leadership in patent output, through measures such as today’s pledge, we will increasingly use patents to encourage and protect global innovation and interoperability through open standards and we urge others to do so as well.�

Patents included in the pledge relate to many aspects of software innovation. Three of them cover dynamic linking processes used in operating systems such as Linux. Another is basic to file-export protocols such as Samba. The pledged patents cover a wide scope, including patents on operating systems, databases, XML, radio frequency identification (RFID) systems, methods for testing programming interfaces, and a car-based system for sleep prevention.