The news is alive with the rustle of pundits trying to make sense of IBM‘s giving 500 patents [list of the patents in PDF] back to the Commons (or in this case the Open Source Community). There are over 160 stories in Google news on the subject.
Not one to be left out, I too took a call from a local paper (also known as the News and Observer — hopefully called “Nuisance and Disturber” when I was in school) to opine on “what does it mean?”
Since my contribution may not make the paper tomorrow as the number of stories begin to push over 200, I give it here:
IBM is one of the biggest patent holders in the world. It takes a lot of guts to step up to the plate and not only say that the patent system in the US is badly broken, but to also here are some patents back. Things that should not have been patented. Things (processes or inventions) that should be out there free so that they could facilitate innovation. IBM need not give up all their patents, only the ones that should not have been patented in the first place, patents that were filed as a defense against false patent claims later.
Matthew Szulik, CEO of Red Hat, was also adamant about false and defensive patents during his talk today. Red Hat has assigned several patents to the Free Software Foundation, he said, in order to make sure that the processes remained free for all to use.
UPDATE: The N and O story is out and I’m not in it. I must become more pithy and less insightful! The story is a remix of yesterday’s NYTimes story with two paragraphs of local quotes dropped in. The NYTimes reporter is credited and the local reporter “contributed to this story.”