IBM Loosens Its Open Standards Patent Rights

IBM announced on Wednesday that some of its open specification patents associated with Web services technologies would be freed from intellectual property restrictions.

The newly liberated patents include specifications and protocols that were typically developed under the "stewardship of standards groups such as the World Wide Web Consortium and OASIS," according to an announcement issued by IBM.

The company issued an "Interoperability Specifications Pledge" with the intent of fostering greater interoperability among software from different vendors. Specifically, the company expects that the "broad implementation of these specifications can dramatically improve our customers' ability to communicate data within and between their enterprises," according to IBM's Web site.

The Pledge applies to more than 150 standards where IBM is "granting universal and perpetual access," according to IBM's announcement. Examples of the technologies include patents on XML, SOAP, UDDI, Web security and WSDL, among others. The complete list is available here.

IBM previously had royalty-free licensing associated with many of these standards. However, with royalty-free licensing, users of the technology would still have to secure intellectual property rights. Consequently, the company's announced Pledge to not assert patent claims in these cases will eliminate that step for users, according to IBM's Web site.

One condition for IBM to honor its proclaimed nonassertion of patent rights is for users of IBM's intellectual property to not sue IBM.

IBM's Pledge specifically states that it will not assert any "necessary claims" against users of the patents. Necessary claims are defined as "those patent claims that can not be avoided by any commercially reasonable, compliant implementation of the Required Portions of a Covered Specification."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.