IBM patent pledge only useful for some Free Software

Bernhard Reiter bernhard at
Fri Jan 14 19:49:26 UTC 2005

On Tue, Jan 11, 2005 at 09:43:26AM +0100, Jerome Alet wrote:
> In the light of the recent BIG event of IBM patents being
> made available to free software developpers, 

In consider it a small event which might be dangerous.

There is an article in LWN's last edition from 20050113.
(subscriber only content until the 20th.)

I wrote the following comment:

     IBM licensed their patent to all software or only a fraction of
   Free Software
   (Posted Jan 14, 2005 18:36 UTC (Fri) by subscriber ber) 
   One reason why an patent exception for all Free Software does not
   work is that if you can fully use patents under a non-protecting
   Free Software license like MIT/X it can also be used in proprietary
   applications. To use the patent in proprietary software: Only put
   the implementation of the algorithm under MIT/X and keep the rest
   proprietary following the license terms.
   So what does mean for IBM? Either they just gave up their 500
   patents completely because of the MIT/X trick; or they actually mean
   pure Free Software solutions, effectively limiting the use to strong
   licenses like the GNU GPL.
   Because it does not make sense to write down terms when you want to
   completely give up the patents, IBM certainly means only a fraction
   of Free Software licenses can be used as before when using their
   patents, any Lesser GNU GPL code cannot be linked into proprietary
   applications anymore without getting a target for ligitation.
   There is even another posion hidden in IBM's patents for Free
   Software and this is the freedom to learn and use the knowledge in
   other applications. Okay, that is true for all patents, but usually
   you do not have the freedom to work with the code and know some
   might think it is okay.
   Conclusion: This might be more than just a smoke screen from the
   known friend of software patents IBM. 
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