Yesterday morning I gave a short presentation in Brussels at the Green Party “Free Software and Software Patents” hearing. As it turns out, I did not project anything and just spoke from the points I had prepared. These are those comments, unedited and unexpanded. I think they are self-explanatory in their current form, but I may return to some of the things I raised in future blog entries.
1. IBM’s Early Involvement in Open Source
- In June, 1998, we announced that we would incorporate the open source Apache web server into our “proprietary” WebSphere product line.
- The first project we ourselves open-sourced was Jikes, a Java compiler, in 1999.
- Within eight hours of its release we got a substantive contribution from someone we had never met.
- In 2001, we announced that we would invest US $1 billion on Linux over the following three years.
- Since then we have been the commercial leader in contributions to open source projects, including many in the Apache Software Foundation, Eclipse.org, and the Globus Alliance Project.
2. The Patent Commons
- IBM is the world’s largest patent holder, yet …
- On 11 January, 2005, on the day that the USPO said that IBM had gotten more patents than anyone else in the world for the twelfth straight year, we announced that we would not assert patent rights against any of 500 specific, named patents if they were used in open source projects.
- We did this to help encourage general open and collaborative innovation, not any one particular open source project.
- Our patents, we hoped, would be the seeds of such innovation and we and others could benefit from the great things that might come from this.
- Thus was created a patent commons: a community with well-defined membership rules and benefits.
- Open source and patents are thus not mutually exclusive.
3. Changes in the Standards World
- Starting around 2001, the W3C decided that it would try to develop a “royalty free” (RF) intellectual property policy.
- We were opposed to this.
- We lost: the W3C went RF and we adapted.
- In April, 2005, we gave an unprompted, unilateral RF pledge to the OASIS organization for their work on software interoperability standards.
- “Open standards” does not equal “open source”, but there is a strong connection.
- Open source can provide rapid, compliant implementations of open standards; open source is not “just another business model.”
- Our experience with the web and Internet has taught us that that we must be very careful about putting up roadblocks on the adoption of software interoperability standards lest we stifle innovation and new business opportunities.
4. The Co-existence of Patents and Open Source
- In Summer 2004, we pledged that we would not assert any of our patents against the Linux kernel.
- Other kinds of pledges have been made by Nokia, RedHat, Novell, and Sun.
- The patent commons we initiated in January is an example of using patents in a positive way that helps encourage open source and partially protects it from those who might want to slow it down or stop it.
- The computer industry is seeking a balance between traditional proprietary and purely open software development.
- The proprietary and open business models can and do exist at the same time (e.g., WebSphere and Gluecode), and the mix varies from one part of the industry to another.
5. Some Q&A
- Will we add more patents to the patent commons? maybe, probably (who’s next?)
- Can patents and open source co-exist? yes
- Should patents stand in the way of implementations of standards for software interoperability? no
- Will we do more positive things with our intellectual property to further drive innovation and interoperability via open standards and open source: yes
- Where will we be a year from now? five years from now? more open, I hope, but the actions of all of us will determine that, including what we do to encourage open document formats
6. The IBM Innovation Principles
- Collaboration is key to innovation.
- Open standards are essential to collaborative innovation: interoperability is key.
- Both proprietary and open source are important forms of software development.
- Patents should be granted only for what is new.