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IBM Patents Method For Paying Open Source Workers 426

Frequanaut writes "Oh, the bitter, bitter irony. According to The Inquirer, in a strange move, IBM has patented a method for paying open source volunteers. By the way, if the future of software development is open source, how will anyone get paid when only IBM can do it?" The Inquirer quizzically notes, with regard to this patent: "It may be an ingenious way of paying open source developers and volunteers, Big Blue, but can it really be described as an invention?"
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IBM Patents Method For Paying Open Source Workers

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  • by fine09 ( 630812 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:37PM (#8091271)
    One more reason you should take a job with McDonalds.
  • Wow. (Score:3, Funny)

    by njfuzzy ( 734116 ) <> on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:38PM (#8091288) Homepage
    Talk about a development likely to elicit mixed feelings.
    • Re:Wow. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by saden1 ( 581102 )
      Hay, better them then some idiot out of no where right? We all know the open source community can turn on you on a dime and I am sure IBM knows this. IBM will probably put the patent out on public domain and say something like "it's a gift to the open source community."
      • Re:Wow. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by njfuzzy ( 734116 )
        There is no point in applying for a patent if you are going to put it in the public domain. Doing that dissolves the patent. On the other hand, making it available under a free license might make sense. They control who gets it, but basically opens it up. That would probably work.
        • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by dillon_rinker ( 17944 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @04:09PM (#8091759) Homepage
          Putting it in the public domain means no one else can patent it. It doesn't dissolve the patent.
          • Uh... Doesn't patenting it already mean nobody else can patent it...?
          • Re:Wow. (Score:3, Interesting)

            by terrymr ( 316118 )
            Volvo (If I remember correctly) patented the three point seatbelt that's in almost every car ... they then licenses it for free to every car manufacturer.
        • Sure there's a point. It keeps someone ELSE with less honorable intentions from patenting the same/a similar idea just to sit on it and prevent anyone else from doing it.
        • Actually, there is.

          This way, the patent is recorded at the PTO, and becomes a readily visible part of the prior art. How many 'obviously done before' things have been reported on /. as patented? Any record of any of those being overturned? From what I've heard, it's tough to overturn a patent, once it's issued. Patenting this will make sure it doesn't happen in this particular case.

          That said, I have no idea whatsoever what IBM's motives are in seeking this patent.
        • There is no point in applying for a patent if you are going to put it in the public domain.

          1. You have a(nother) patent under your bet. That bank at IBM.

          2. Other folks can't patent it, because prior art is clearly established

          3. It is a sign of your commitment to the community

  • IBM (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ianoo ( 711633 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:38PM (#8091299) Journal
    I'd like to think that IBM won't enforce this patent to disrupt paid open source development because they now realise how important Linux, GNU, X, Gnome and KDE are to their business model. However, I suspect I'm just being naieve.
    • Re:IBM (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Saeed al-Sahaf ( 665390 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:43PM (#8091385) Homepage
      IBM holds zillions of patents they don't enforce. Take a look at some of the lame ones they pulled out in reference to the SCO case. Really, it's just fodder for when you really piss them off.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:49PM (#8091486)
        Many companies, but especially IBM have "Patent Reward Systems". Essentially, they pay folks $1000 for Patent Applications, and the lawyers will try to send it as many as they can...after all, it's their job to do so. The more patents you write, the more money you get for successive patents, and having patents is the only good way to get to the "Distinguished Engineer" level. All in all, it encourages engineers to generate SPAM for the USPTO rather than innovative, but I knew numerous folks at IBM that would play the system.

        • I suggest you to read the report of the US fderal trade commission. Or support FFII UK [] or the FFII Call for Action II.

          There will be several swpat conferences and lobby actions next year.

          We have to join forces and get rid of the inefficient software-patent system. In Europe it is still semi-legal. Let's support the EU Parliament's directive against the united scum in the national DOJs.

          "Even to IBM most patents are not a cash cow. A small number of their patents bring in a lot of money, but most of them do
        • by nedwidek ( 98930 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @06:14PM (#8093237)
          Speaking as an IBM employee, you've only got part of that right. Yes there are monetary rewards for a filing and then when the patent is awarded, but you're 100% wrong when it comes to the spamming. Each division at each site has a patent review board. You have to first convince this board that you are on to something (Having been involved in the process I can say it is not easy and most get shot down at this point). Next you are referred to IBM legal for the writing of the patent application and a prior art search. Only if you've made it to this point does the filing go in.

          If you work at IBM and want to make bonus money it is much easier to write articles at Developer Works and get recognition through the Author Awards Program.

      • Re:IBM (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Carnage4Life ( 106069 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:55PM (#8091577) Homepage Journal
        And they hold zillions which they do enforce. You should read up on IBM and Software Patents [] sometime. A number of software companies could learn a thing or two about monetizing their intellectual property from IBM [if that was their thing].
      • Re:IBM (Score:5, Interesting)

        by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:55PM (#8091582) Homepage
        I've been told that you get to make a big tax write-off if you get a patent. So in the end, the whole patent scheme in corporate America is nothing more then tax legal evasion.

        And as my sig says....

      • Re:IBM (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BoneFlower ( 107640 )
        exactly- pure defense.

        If IBM uses this system, didnt patent it, they could be screwed if someone else "invents" it two years from now and sues IBM over it. This way, that case begins and ends with the words "Case Dismissed". A patent gives you a crystal clear prior art defense.
    • Re:IBM (Score:5, Insightful)

      by smittyoneeach ( 243267 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:50PM (#8091497) Homepage Journal
      No, it could be likely a defensive measure, so that others don't hammer them.
      Too, if you're a hardware vendor, stuff like this and OSDL make a truckload of sense.
      Particularly if you have received a Massive Stab wound in your back Over Something, Too.
    • Re:IBM (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Aumaden ( 598628 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .relliM.C.noveD.> on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:53PM (#8091536) Journal
      This is almost certainly a "defensive" patent. Simply by obtaining the patent IBM prevents anyone else from hamstringing the development community.

      Preventing OSD would be very much against IBM's best interests.

      Imagine if SCO owned this patent. They would be doing their best to extort anyone trying to pay open source developers.

    • Not naive at all (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fm6 ( 162816 )
      That's probably exactly what they have in mind. You can use IP law to sequester something (the source code for Windows) or you can use it to control the way other people use it (the source code for Linux). Sequestration gets all the headlines, but there wouldn't be any free/open source software without intelligent use of the IP laws.

      I can't believe IBM intends to be sticky about licensing this patent. It would alienate the very people they want to work with. And even if you think Software Patents are Evil

    • Re:IBM (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Java Pimp ( 98454 ) <java_pimp AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday January 26, 2004 @04:50PM (#8092225) Homepage
      IBM didn't patent "Paying Open Source Developers." You can still pay people to develop open source software.

      They patented a method of attracting and paying volunteers for their effort while providing incentive for others to volunteer and contribute to an open source project.

  • Patents are bad... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:38PM (#8091300)
    So if you want to get paid for developing free software you should move to Europe where methods are not patentable (yet).
  • Defensive? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kid-noodle ( 669957 ) <> on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:38PM (#8091301) Homepage
    One would hope they've done this defensively, to stop some (other?) evil corporation patenting it first and banjaxing things?

    I said hope.
  • heh (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Vthornheart ( 745224 )
    Only IBM could take a good spirited, community driven idea like open source and turn it into a capitalist-oriented business concept. And patent it to boot.
    • Re:heh (Score:2, Insightful)

      by VojakSvejk ( 315965 )
      SuSE ...
    • Remember, H.A.L. is I.B.M. decremented on letter each. Kubric and Clarke swear it was a coincindence...
    • Current open-source developers could just choose to ignore this development model and continue with business as usual. Although you might as well get paid for something if you were planning to do it for free anyway. This is basically the way TopCoder [] develops proprietary software (which I personally don't like), but if the software is open source, it seems like a decent model.
  • by pyros ( 61399 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:39PM (#8091314) Journal
    Who wants to go halfsies with me to patent "method for paying open source workers" on the web? We'll make a fortune!
    • Ooo, even better. Patent the process of patenting the method for paying open source workers on the web. That way, when someone finally comes along with a working model, we can sue them for taking our idea. Of course, without having to work out all the nasty details ourselves.
  • Hey!? (Score:5, Funny)

    by DaRat ( 678130 ) * on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:39PM (#8091315)

    I didn't know that you could patent money!

    Or, is IBM paying them with something else? Peanuts? Filtering their spam for them?

  • by Dark Paladin ( 116525 ) * <[ten.lemmuhnhoj] [ta] [lemmuhj]> on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:39PM (#8091316) Homepage
    I am not a constitutional lawyer or any great expert in history, so if I get any details right or wrong I'll apologize in advance.

    I personally don't have an issue with IBM or any other number of companies applying for patents in principle. After all, a lot of that is what I would call "defensive patents" which I have a whole separate issue with and won't go into here.

    I do have one major problem with a lot of the patents I've been seeing lately on "business processes". I believe that the Founding Fathers had a basic idea about patents:

    It was for inventions. Something you could build and use. If you couldn't build it, then details blueprints on how the "repeater rifle" was going to look at the end or "the automatic banana peeler".

    Not a wish or a dream or some vague concept on how something is going to work, or a method of how to go from A to B by sticking your thumb up your ass turning in a circle and singing "I can fly". Not for the genetic code of a field mouse that Nature kicked up and you discovered the genetic sequence - though you could probably patent the gel used to discover the genetic markers. That's fair game.

    Inventions. An actual item that can be built in the real world. And it seems that for whatever reason, our members of congress or the senate or whichever slick son of a bitch (or daughter, whatever) who seems to exist only to bend over and get reamed by the latest lobbyist promising that patenting "business procedures is good for the economy!" is not doing their job by the Founding Fathers.

    Who, if they saw what patents are being used for today, would probably use a big old switch on the idiots allowing patents like this to go through. Lord knows, they didn't invent the "willow tree supple butt-swacker switch", but they probably knew how to use it when people acted like asses.

    Of course, this is just my opinion. I could be wrong.
    • by Auckerman ( 223266 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:48PM (#8091476)
      Inventions. An actual item that can be built in the real world.

      Computers that fit a specific task fall in this category. By extension, so does software (which do real world tasks). That is essentially why I'm not totally against software patents. As long as they solve real world problems in a non-obvious way, they are fair game.
    • Know your enemy, your officials in congress are the top few hundred 'please everyone' class presidents/kissups of the country. They got to where they are by not pissing anyone off, especially those who kicked them the loot to advertise to the general(ly stupid) population.

      This is what these guys are facing:

      Nice, well-dressed, smart, attentive and rich lobbyists take them out to lunch and explain that patents on inventions were great for the industrial revolution, so patents on business practices will be a
  • Well (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:39PM (#8091318)
    Nobody will use it anyway.

    What open source developer gets paid? Anyone? Bueller?

  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:40PM (#8091323)
    is that IBM has lots of patents on lots of things that they don't normally enforce. Lots of memory control and process control concepts are covered by their patents, yet they don't enforce them. SCO is giving them a reason to, though, as a defensive counterattack.

    It might be possible that IBM is patenting this so that no one else *cough*SCO*Microsoft*cough* gets to the idea first. This is somewhat unlikely, but not impossible. Hopefully IBM's open source concepts will remain god for the public.
    • Microsoft generally has the same patent attitude as IBM. They both hold a gajillion patents and they both very rarely enforce them. Of course if you piss them off they might just hit you with hundreds of patent enfringement suits. But calling Microsoft bad, and excusing IBM really isn't fair.
    • They DO enforce them... they just don't enforce them in things that we see... IBM doesn't care if joe blow writes and OS (or Richard Stallman) and uses some of their ideas... but if HyperGlobalMegaTech uses their 'inventions', and they get patents, IBM cross-licences with them to get access to their 'inventions'.. so IBM enforces patents selectivly.. mostly for cross licencing.
    • by Elektroschock ( 659467 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @04:40PM (#8092115)
      TWZ wrote :"It might be possible that IBM is patenting this so that no one else *cough*SCO*Microsoft*cough* gets to the idea first."

      ???? Huuuuuaaaaahaaaaaahahahahaha!

      IBM's lobby organisations fight hard for the reduction of limits to software patentability in Europe. Fritz Teufel, Eicta, Bitkom ... that's IBM action.

      IBM's committment to Open Source is janus head style.

      Bruce Perens recently complained about IBM: "And yet, a pro-software patent agenda is being pursued by some of the largest and best partners we have in the Linux industry. IBM stands out in this regard. Obviously, IBM has done a lot for our community, and the very fact that IBM endorses our systems and distributes them so well to our many customers has helped us gain the economic significance that gets us taken seriously by standards organizations and legislators. At the same time, we have frequently found IBM taking an adversary position, one harmful to the open source developers, in patent policy discussions at standards organizations, and at governments here and abroad. There's no question that IBM is one of the major parties supporting the effort to expand software patenting to Europe. So we're at the point, in the progress of open source, where we realize that we have very good friends who can still hurt us in significant ways if we don't push back against them. We must push back, or we will simply not survive the upcoming legal onslaught."
  • by LoonXTall ( 169249 ) <> on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:40PM (#8091327) Homepage

    Virtually nobody is writing open-source software to place it in the public domain. Rather, much of it is licensed under the GNU GPL, which embraces the property rights of copyright and uses them to ensure that the code remains open. I propose a parallel license for patents: a perpetual, irrevocable license for open-source software[1] to implement, use, and improve the patented concepts and inventions free of charge.

    If we patent our patentable work, instead of merely copyrighting our code, we can build a defensive patent portfolio. This would give us some leverage against patent infringement suits, as well as being good business sense in the current climate.

    What is the harm in not adopting such a license? Besides the possibility of open-source ultimately being crushed by patents, there is the risk of our work becoming a de facto Microsoft R&D lab. We are already seeing that future with XUL (or libglade) and Microsoft's XAML.

    In addition, this license would give Red Hat a graceful way to keep their promise [] that they will never charge licensing fees on their patents.

    And now, IBM has patented something very much like the Open Source model itself. Can we afford to continue ignoring patents? IBM was once greatly despised, and there is nothing to say that if Microsoft falls, they won't become a new tyrant.

    Of course, open-source developers would still need to apply and pay for the patent, but it is much cheaper to apply than retroactively fight one.

    [1] Rather than "open-source software", the patent license would have to define which software licenses are considered open source. If the patent license relies on an external definition like "OSI-approved", then the OSI could change the license after the fact by changing their approvals. Since the proposed license is irrevocable, the patent couldn't be withdrawn from it if OSI added a license the patent-holder objected to.

    (This post is based on the ideas of someone else. I'll drop them a line so they can take credit or elaborate as they see fit.)

  • by wizarddc ( 105860 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:40PM (#8091333) Homepage Journal
    They might want to patent this just to simply hold the patent. They could let anyone who wants to use it, to use it for free, or donate it to the FSF. Maybe they just wanted to get it before another company with more devious plans got it. Think what Microsoft would do with this. They would kill Open Source, or do their damndest to do it, with the new tool.

    I just think there might be a chance IBM has some pure intentions here.
    • by melted ( 227442 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:47PM (#8091453) Homepage
      As opposed to Microsoft (who has never enforced any patents, so some people even think they don't have any), IBM has in the past enforced their patents and squeezed a great deal of money from others by doing so. Plus, IBM has 10x the patent portfolio that Microsoft has.
    • Wah ha, ha ha..ohh thats a good one.

      Yes, IBM is just patenting this for the public good.

      Sure, because they've given so many other patents to the FSF.

      btw. First Submission!
    • "Think what Microsoft would do with this. They would kill Open Source, or do their damndest to do it, with the new tool."

      And what makes you think that IBM won't do the same thing? Just because they support open source now, doesn't mean they always will. Like that warning about the stock market...Past performance is no guarantee(sp)...
    • I seem to recall that if a company knowingly does not enforce a patent on one party without explicit agreement between the two, they lose the right to enforce it on any other parties. I may be thinking of copyright, though.. anyone know?
  • Microsoft (Score:5, Funny)

    by chunkwhite86 ( 593696 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:41PM (#8091342)
    Next thing you know Microsoft is going to sue IBM for infringing on their patented methods of preventing OSS workers from getting paid.
  • by uucp2 ( 731567 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:41PM (#8091343)
    ...SCO patents method for being paid by Open Source workers
  • by kesteloot ( 600073 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:41PM (#8091346)
    This is exactly how topcoder pays people for developing components, except the software isn't open source. x
  • by Unnngh! ( 731758 )
    ...don't feel comfortable working outside of very rigid guidelines. For example, this patent will make my OSS development projects go much smoother, and increase my productivity in some ambiguous way. At least I'll know how to pay myself for my own work, it's pretty important I get all that money.

    Hopefully soon, everything about software and computers will be patented, so I can curb my mind from its aweful tendency to stray outside of the box. Go IBM, Microsoft, et al.!

  • First, you sign up to get paid (either with IBM or a designated OSR [open source recruiter]).

    Next, you start recruiting volunteers. For every 25 volunteers you recruit, your base pay increases by paid $5/hr.

    The best part is, every time one of your recruits signs up 25 additional developers, you get a $25 per week bonus!

    Really, you can't lose!

  • So what? (Score:4, Informative)

    by chill ( 34294 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:42PM (#8091363) Journal
    It is a patent on A method, not the only method.

    With the way the current business world works, anything that can be patented needs to be, if nothing else but for the defensive value.

    IBM, who I believe is the #1 patent holder in the world, knows this better than anyone.
  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:43PM (#8091382)
    IBM...patented a method for paying open source volunteers.

    In related news, SCO claims this is only a derivative work on their system of now getting paid by open source volunteers, and promises to add it to their lawsuit.

  • Oh yeah (Score:5, Funny)

    by CGP314 ( 672613 ) <CGP AT ColinGregoryPalmer DOT net> on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:43PM (#8091386) Homepage
    Oh yeah... well I'm going to patent paying IBM workers. Take that big blue.

    In London? Need a Physics Tutor? []

    American Weblog in London []

  • Open Source Workers patent method for excluding IBM hardware and software from ever working with Linux

    Don't count on IBM to screw anyone on this, they aren't the type of company to cut off their nose to spite their face.

  • Aren't volunteer and paid worker mutually exclusive?

    • Nope, but volunteer and well paid generally are mutually exclusive.

      Typically volunteer just means you willing choose to get screwed in some fashion. For instance, you might volunteer to fetch a kite out of a volcano, that doesn't mean if you actually pull it off you can't get a reward.
    • Not unless I'm paid to volunteer. Think of it like patronizing an artist.

      Take Linus. He works for OSDL. They keep him in a lifestyle to which he has been accustomed in exchange for continuing to work on Linux.

      Man, how much of the kernel do you have to write to get a deal like that?

  • who would you rather be holding such a patent, Microsoft, perhaps our friends SCO. In the climate of patent fever in america, it's not so much whether they have the patent as how they use it.

    it's a bit early yet to really trust ibm IMHO.
  • IBM's patent culture (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @03:48PM (#8091477)
    There was an interesting article in last week's Network World that described IBM's "domination" in the world of patents. Basically IBM makes it very worthwhile for their employees to come up with patentable ideas - they are rewarded with pay raises, bonuses, and the like. The idea is to foster and encourage innovation within the company.

    Given this, it would not be unreasonable to assume that some individual within IBM saw this as an opportunity to play the wheel for some extra dough. It's not the only possible explanation - we've seen plenty of businesses overextend the US Patent Office before - but it certainly is a reasonable hypothesis.
  • it doesn't cover Free Software developers and volunteers. I think the Free Software Foundation has some prior art. Also, doesn't a patent require a prototype? So where's the IBM prototype so all the out of work developers on here can go try to make some money?

  • I hope I have these posed correctly, feel free to slap me around if I'm missing the point or being just too paranoid (yeah, 'too paranoid' on /.)

    If IBM (or someone) pays you your write their module, and you do it and get paid, who owns the copyright by default ?

    Hmmm, so IBM could then have the copyright on tons of "open source" works (GPL'ed of course)...

    ...and for those philosphers amount you, if IBM copyrights open source modules under a GPL, then SCO distributes them, and SCO invalidates the G
  • Gentlemen, I refer you to this Slashdot post [].

  • I would like to inform you that SCO already owns the Intellectual Property associated with this patent.

    Anyone wishing to pay open source volunteers must buy a $699 license from SCO.


  • From the description of the Patent:
    Further, currently there is a severe shortage of computer programmers. Even employers that are willing to pay high salaries frequently are unable to find enough skilled programmers to meet requirements for a particular programming job.

    This does not make sense. There are not enough skilled programmers to be found out there, so we are going to design and implement by accepting random code from people who must not be "computer programmers" seeing as there is such a short
  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @04:06PM (#8091716) Journal
    Method Patents have to be the biggest nightmare going. But they are here, and it has to be dealt with (until laws can be changed). IBM and Bell Labs (Lucent/Avaya) hold the largest number of patents going. Almost all of them are junk and are rarely used. But when somebody comes along and starts a law suit, then they pull out the patent portfolio.

    IBM may be doing us a favor by getting it. This blocks hostile companies from aquiring them. The real question is what will IBM do with them. While I have no doubt that IBM will not use them against us today, if they have a CEO change, they could elect to hit us with them. Hopefully, IBM will turn them over to EFF or GNU.
  • I mean, think about it people. Here in the 'states, you use one of those two forms to declare to the IRS (or is that a W4 rather than a W2?) exactly what's being withheld from your check. So what's the big deal, Big Blue?
  • When I opened this up in a new tab in Mozilla, the tab read "IBM Patents Meth..."

    'Nuff said. Now I know what they're smokin'.

  • I suspect this is a defensive mechanism on the part of Big Blue.

    OSS has become an important part of their business. Now suppose they want to set up a funding mechanism to pay contributors. Now suppose someone had asked for or created a business process for that mechanism and was issued a patent on it. IBM would be a target for someone with deep pockets. "you paid OSS developers and you owe us huge money for using our process."

    Would you rather have someone with a vested interest in paying OSS developers

  • by blackmonday ( 607916 ) * on Monday January 26, 2004 @04:12PM (#8091788) Homepage
    In other news, today Microsoft patented paying people with Xboxes and MCSE courses.

  • IBM has a vested interest in Open Source development. It is not likely that they would take out a patent with the idea of hurting one of their benefactors. It is far more likely that in a climate where other companies seek to destroy open source (**Cough** SCO **Cough** Microsoft) they perceived a threat and are taking preemptive action.
  • Hmm. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BoneFlower ( 107640 ) <> on Monday January 26, 2004 @04:28PM (#8091974) Journal
    Well, IBM rarely brings out its patents, and from the SCO case, the patents they countersued on suggested IBM could shatter the tech industry if they decided to throw down with their full weight.

    I doubt we will see these patents used unless IBM needs to countersue someone on a relevant issue. The situation still bears watching in case I'm wrong, but I wouldn't really worry. IBM has an incredible number of patents that they could abuse, but don't.
  • escalation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by theCat ( 36907 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @04:38PM (#8092091) Journal
    If the IBM patent really is defensive, and if the threat is present and not future, then we might be on the leading edge of a ramp up in defensive/offensive patents. How about these patents we'd all like to see?

    A patent on a method to manage outsourced software development.

    A patent on a method to handle consumer RMAs using web services to coordinate agents.

    A patent on a method to manage software development via timelines and milestones using an online collaborative system.

    A patent on a method to...

    I think you get the point. If the way we work is now subject to patent, just like the products of our work, then there is very little that cannot be patented. Either the madness will now stop, or the future of our industry is going to be absolutely insane.
  • Inventor??? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Screaming Lunatic ( 526975 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @05:01PM (#8092345) Homepage
    Is it just me or does anyone else find the fact that the second inventor mentioned is named Nimrod?

    Here's the the link [] again.

  • by An Onerous Coward ( 222037 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @08:14PM (#8094476) Homepage
    Okay, let's assume for the sake of argument what many have claimed: that the patent is only going to be used for defensive purposes. There are two orthogonal interests that might be protected. First, IBM's interests. Second, the interests of open source developers at large.

    Now, I think it's pretty safe to say that IBM isn't going to go after anyone just for using some variant on their reward system. But say you're a company that does some open source work as a (not necessarily large) part of its business. Now say you get into it with IBM's Demon Lawyer Horde over some unrelated patent dispute. IBM might not hesitate to use this as leverage.

    So I don't buy the "defensive use only" defense, even if that is IBM's true intent. It's not a guarantee that it will always be to the benefit of OSS developers. I would be happy to see a universal, royalty-free license to any and all who desired it.

    As previous posters have noted, IBM rewards people for coming up with patents, so maybe somebody is simply padding their in-house resume.
  • by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @08:16PM (#8094512)
    See, the reason it's a good thing that every single thing that can be conceived of gets patented *today*, is because it's for *the children.*

    Not just any children, but for the children of the current generation.

    See, all these ridiculous patents (and the reasonable ones as well) are going to expire just as children who are coming into the world right now start to reach the age where they have to work for a living. And LOOK at all the wonderful stuff that will be entering the public domain at the same time!

    The only thing left to do is make sure that copyright is freed at the same time!


The Force is what holds everything together. It has its dark side, and it has its light side. It's sort of like cosmic duct tape.