IBMs Patent Model Spurs Innovation

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-06-03 Print this article Print

IBM, Nokia and Red Hat count on collaboration to widen the intellectual property available to developers.

Some five months after IBM gave open-source developers unfettered access to 500 of its software patents, the Armonk, N.Y., company has turned its attention to the broader concept of harnessing that model to spark innovation, an effort already catching on with other large technology vendors.

"We are interested in innovation, not just in companies and silos, but through collaboration with other partners. We have some of the brightest people working on this," said IBMs chief Linux strategist, Adam Jollins.

Jollins said the patent strategy has met one goal of widening the intellectual property available to developers beyond the core kernel.
"Our goal now is to find a way to encourage collaborative connections, beyond specific products, and to determine how the process of innovation works," he said.

The open-source licensing and intellectual property model is also attracting some traditional proprietary vendors, such as Nokia Corp., which is testing the waters with new products tailored to developers of open-source applications.

Nokia will release its 770 Internet Tablet, its first nonmobile phone device, this summer. The Espoo, Finland, company is also following IBMs lead and said some of its patented technology may be freely used in the Linux kernel.

The move is further evidence of the increasing number of companies that are looking to open source as a serious development alternative, which will benefit enterprise users in terms of lower costs, greater choice and more-available source code with fewer legal restrictions, according to experts.

Ari Jaaksi, Nokias director for open software platforms, said the company believes open source is changing the way software is created, with the new model a community-based peer production where costs and results are shared.

"For Nokia, we believe that you have to both give and take ... to take what you can use, to work with communities and gatekeepers, to give back contributions and improvements, while simultaneously running a profitable business," Jaaksi said.

"But using open source in product development [requires] management of several new aspects, including mergers of product programs and open-source communities, the architecture of the GPL [General Public License] or LGPL [Lesser GPL], and how proprietary and commercial applications fit into that," he said.

Nokia had already done a lot of research on Linux and open source and decided they were well-suited to this device, Jaaksi said. Read more here about Nokias plans to develop an open-source device. "We wanted to use mainstream open-source components that were running on millions of PCs, while avoiding fragmentation and the still-maturing embedded Linux world. Using the open-source technologies already in desktops, we got good-quality components, good chances for reuse and a strong architecture."

Linux vendor Red Hat Inc. is also committed to giving patent rights for much of its technology to the open-source community. "We believe in collaboration and the innovation that creates," company spokesperson Leigh Day said at the Red Hat Summit here. The Raleigh, N.C., company is now writing the code for its Fedora Directory Server—which is based on components of the technology assets Red Hat acquired from the Netscape Security Solutions division of America Online last year—available under the GNU GPL.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.
Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel