IBM won't assert patents against Linux kernel

In his keynote address on Wednesday at LinuxWorld, IBM Senior Vice President of Technology and Marketing Nick Donofrio assured the Linux nation his company would not assert its formidable patent portfolio against the Linux kernel and strongly advocated others to promise the same.

Donofrio's remarks were in response to a statement earlier this week from the Open Source Risk Management organization based on its research and initial analysis of patents that might affect the Linux kernel. A number of those patents were identified as being owned by several larger companies with strategic Linux-based strategies including IBM.

"I can say that as an ally that believes in the positive power that the Linux community is having on collaborative innovation, I can assure you we have no intention of asserting our patents against the Linux kernel, unless, of course, we are forced to defend ourselves," Donofrio said.

Donofrio threw out a challenge to the IT community to join together to establish procedures that avoid infringement claims and to also try to resolve them as they come up.

"When more people have access to the building blocks of innovation, it can inject a richer perspective to the creative process. When you combine all the diversity of the world in the open environments, it's a rather humbling thought," Donofrio said.

Donofrio said collaborative innovation figures to play a significant role in the future of IT and that Linux, various grid technologies and the Internet will continue to be an influence there. He contended that countries around the world will have to find the right balance between collaborative innovation, and respect for intellectual property as it applies to IT.

"For IBM's part, we pledge to do everything in our power to help stroke that balance. I can promise you that," Donofrio said.

The open movement, which Donofrio sees happening in many industries outside of computer software, is forcing people to rethink their various intellectual property models and to rethink where it is they can offer the most value to their respective users.

He contends this overall open movement has encouraged and enabled competition to continue thriving. Donofrio then made an open plea to governments and private businesses to "collectively sharpen" their focus on policies and practices that would serve to encourage and to support innovation.

"Why does innovation matter? Well, consider one issue that has been at the center of discussion for some time: job growth," Donofrio said.

He cited a recent economic study that stated some 91 million new jobs would be created in the coming years, but that it is yet to be determined in which countries most of those jobs would be based.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that many of the best jobs will go to those countries that create the most fertile environments for innovation," Donofrio said.

Donofrio then started preaching to the Linux choice saying that Linux and the open source community in general holds the potential to spark remarkable innovation because the technology is at once owned by no one but yet by everyone. It is this concept that will give it a major advantage compared with those still espousing proprietary platforms.

"The forces that cling to closed ways of doing things are doing nothing to advance innovation. When you box people in and create these artificial barriers to solving problems, you can't have (innovative) solutions spring forward," Donofrio said.

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