by Stephanie Overby

IBM Tries to Patent… Patent Licensing

Oct 24, 20072 mins
IT Leadership

Ok, so it’s a little off-topic for the Talent Show blog. But we’ve talked about IBM’s wacky patents before, and this one is just too good not to note.

It’s not a new application (the initial filing date on this is April, 2006 with an ammendment dated April, 2007). Just another overly bold Big Blue patent attempt brought to light by a growing audience of people who have grown tired of overly bold Big Blue patent attempts. It hit the U.S. Patent Office web site last week and Theodp, part-time hunter of ridiculous patents, had it up on Slashdot by Saturday.

It’s officially called a “system and method for extracting value from a portfolio of assets.” An Associated Press story describes it well: “Specifically, IBM — which collects more than $1 billion in patent royalties every year — describes a new process for licensing patents. Instead of smaller companies licensing technologies from patent holders like IBM in a plodding, one-by-one manner, IBM envisions a more dynamic system with ‘floating privileges,’ in which patents could be licensed quickly, as needed.” In other words, mass licensing. Theodp uses a little more hyperbole, calling the system a Sopranos-esque protection racket: “an extortion scheme whereby a powerful non-governmental organization coerces businesses to pay protection money which allegedly serves to purchase the organization’s ‘protection’ services against various external threats.”

Maybe that’s going a little far. But however you describe it, this latest patent doesn’t exactly line up with the new “business method-free” patent mindset IBM claimed to espouse when Big Blue withdrew its controversial patent on a process for offshoring work: “IBM adopted a new policy a year ago to sharply reduce business method patent filings and instead stress significant technical content in its patents.” (For more, see Power to the People: IBM Withdraws Offshoring Patent.) An IP attorney quoted in the AP article says that this latest application most definitely falls in the business method category.

Will IBM back down on this one? I tend to think not. But I’ve been wrong before.

Stephanie Overby

Senior Editor

CIO magazine and