IBM's senior VP of technology and marketing, Nick Donofrio, has promised that Big Blue will not use its stack of patents against Linux - and has encouraged others to state the same.
Donofrio's remarks came in response to a study earlier this week by Open Source Risk Management which warned a total of 283 registered patents could be used as the basis of patent lawsuits against the Linux kernel.
Of them, 27 were held by arch-rival Microsoft, however, IBM had the largest number held by one company - 60 - and the report's authors warned this posed a significant threat.
"I can say that as an ally that believes in the positive power that the Linux community is having on collaborative innovation, I can assure you we have no intention of asserting our patents against the Linux kernel," Donofrio stated, but continued, "unless, of course, we are forced to defend ourselves."
He challenged the IT community to join together to establish procedures that avoid infringement claims and to also try to resolve them as they come up. "When more people have access to the building blocks of innovation, it can inject a richer perspective to the creative process. When you combine all the diversity of the world in the open environments, it's a rather humbling thought."
Overall, he said, the open movement has encouraged and enabled competition to continue thriving. He then made an open plea to governments and private businesses to "collectively sharpen" their focus on policies and practices that would serve to encourage and to support innovation. "Why does innovation matter? Well, consider one issue that has been at the center of discussion for some time: job growth," Donofrio said. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that many of the best jobs will go to those countries that create the most fertile environments for innovation."
"The forces that cling to closed ways of doing things are doing nothing to advance innovation," he said. "When you box people in and create these artificial barriers to solving problems, you can't have [innovative] solutions spring forward." There wasn't a dry eye in the house.