21 November 2006

Offensive patenting

In August I blogged about patents I filed while working at IBM.  Now IBM is suing Amazon for violating five patents having to do with online shopping.  "The suits say Amazon violates IBM patents covering such features as allowing users to order items from an electronic catalog, displaying advertising in an interactive service and storing data in an interactive network."  This is exactly the kind of patent abuse that I hoped was not part of IBM's aggressive patenting strategy.  IBM is undoubtedly a force of good overall, but they're wrong to use the patent system offensively, patenting everything they can just to sit back and collect royalties.  The free market doesn't need any more delay and distortion.

But Amazon isn't really an innocent party here; it's an offensive patenter itself, receiving licensing payments from its patent on one-click shopping (look up patent number 5,960,411 at the Patent and Trademark Office's database).  Sounds like hypocrisy to me.  Are there no good guys?

Another blogger sees this suit as a way for IBM to make easy money off the Web.  My take is simply that intellectual-property suits, like proposed Internet sales taxes, are bad for the online community.


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