James Governor's Monkchips

Microsoft Calls IBM’s bluff on patent pledges

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Microsoft Open Specification Promise

What can I say about Microsoft’s decison to offer a patent covenant around web services and identity protocols?

Not much that hasn’t been said already by people smarter than me.

Neil Macehiter from MWD:

“I think that this move should be greeted with approval, and that Microsoft deserves to be congratulated for this action. I hope that the standards affected will only be the first of many that Microsoft, and hopefully other patent owners as well, benefit with similar pledges.”

Neil then asks what IBM’s response will be. Good question.

Kim Cameron, whose spotless fingerprints are all over this strategic departure by Microsoft, had this to say:

“Note that you don’t have to “do anything” to benefit from the promise. You don’t need to sign a license or communicate anything to anyone. Just implement. Further, you don’t need to mention or credit Microsoft. And you don’t need to worry about encumbering people who use or redistribute or elaborate on your code – they are covered by the same promise.

The promise is the result of a lot of dialog between our lawyers and many others in the industry. Sometimes we developers wished progress could have been faster, but these are really complicated issues. How long does it take to write code? As long as it takes. And I think the same notion applies to negotiations of this kind – unless one party arrives at the table with some pre-determined and intransigent proposal. People on all sides of this discussion had legitimate concerns, and eventually we worked out ways to mitigate those concerns. I thank everyone for their contribution.”

Of course Jason Matusow and Microsoft’s rather excellent but often misunderestimated IP team were also leaders here. Jason says:

“I have been involved with the team working on this for many months, and it is a great next addition to the spectrum approach we have for intellectual property. For 5 years now we have been steadily walking down a path of increasing transparency and expanding the availability of MS IP assets to the community. There has been much speculation around our motives for doing this at each step (usually conspiracy theorists who hold that every step we are taking has some nefarious purpose) – yet we have not deviated from our intent to think creatively about intellectual property.”

Jason is right on to call out transparency and clear policy. With its new covenant Microsoft moves to the side of the angels. I would love to see Google do anything so clearly not evil when it comes to intellectual property concerns.

What about Mike Milinkovich from Eclipse, otherwise known as .NET’s worst nightmare?

“It was particularly interesting to read the community feedback and realize that Microsoft has been consciously and conscientiously working with the open source community to develop this document. That’s an important step forward for them, as it demonstrates they believe the open source community is now integral to the broad adoption of technologies they care about.”

Of course RedMonk long ago recognised the huge changes at Microsoft with respect to open intellectual property models, but its more interesting coming from Mike.

My question is: what does IBM do to up the ante? If there is one war I will sign up to enthusiastically its the war for open standards, unencumbered by potential chilling effects. So come on IBM lets see you really nail it. The 500 OSS patent pledge was just a tester. Lets see more irrevocable stuff.

You could argue IBM covenants are not a bluff, but I have yet to see anything as clear and domain-specific as Microsoft’s new policy.

Late addition: I need to look into this some more, and show some more links to outsider voices; I mean- two Microsofties-what are they going to say? “its a bad idea…”. I have a feeling Stephen will have fixed that oversight by the time I get in tomorrow though.


  1. Brilliant composition of content from guys that may be smarter than you; however, the jury may still be out here as your ideas carry significant weight from what I am beginning to gather. Hey, what drove you to where you are now? Keep driving forward. Your work creates a great buzz.

  2. haven’t quite had time to update that as yet ;), but if Andy thinks it’s a good thing i’m inclined to agree:


  3. Mind you, not asserting patents against open-source projects is a great Microsoft play.

    Microsoft have been training customers for years to pay for their wares. Good as open-source tools are, they are terribly developer oriented. Having great interop with the open-source world actually shrinks the market for mid-sized commercial players to enter.

    Kudos to MS. That’s what I call strategic thinking.

  4. Thanks for the reference James. Just to be clear, the quote you cite is not mine. It comes from the excellent analysis from Andy Updegrove, who I credit in my post. The question to IBM, however, is my own 😉

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