Via Donna Wentworth of Copyfight: IBM announced today that they will be granting open access to 500 of its patents to developers of open-source software. This does not mean that IBM is no longer interested in the patents or will no longer hold them. On the contrary, IBM plans to maintain ownership of the patents while providing royalty-free access to open-source developers. This move will likely spur open-source development of technologies recently restricted. Specifically, Linux is poised to benefit greatly.
From the New York Times:
“This is much broader than the contributions we’ve made in the past,” said Jim Stallings, vice president for standards and intellectual property at I.B.M. “These patents are for technologies that are deeply embedded in many industry uses, and they will be available to anyone working on open-source projects including small companies and individual entrepreneurs.”
I.B.M. executives said they hoped the company’s initial contribution of 500 patents would be the beginning of a “patent commons,” which other companies would join. I.B.M. has not yet approached other companies, Mr. Stallings said.
This is a novel idea: responsible patent holder giants stepping forward and allowing the open-source community royalty-free access to develop innovative technologies. Here’s to hoping this sets a precedent and a wave of the future.