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Sometime computer maker and intellectual property clearing house IBM has threatened the fabric of space-time by attempting to patent profiting from patents.

A filing at the US Patent Office, entitled "system and method for extracting value from a portfolio of assets" stages a landgrab on the thoroughly original idea of letting other people use your ideas.

IBM's intellectual property carpet baggers describe the invention as "obtaining an interest in selected assets from the portfolio to a client who lacks the resources to accumulate and maintain such a portfolio, in return for an annuity stream to the portfolio owner". Or, en Anglais, patent licensing.

The audacious application was originally made in April 2006, and tweaked this year. It was published by the Patent Office last Thursday.

It'll come as a shock to SCO, Broadcom, Qualcomm et al, for who licensing and doggedly going to court over their patent portfolios is a major thrust of business.

If Big Blue gets its way, Microsoft's promises to Novell and Xandros not to sue over alleged infringements of its Windows patent portfolio ought to mean Redmond pays a kickback to IBM.

Intellectual property will have finally eaten itself, and we'll be in the corner mumbling and drinking diesel from a plastic champagne flute.

There's a precedent to suggest IBM might see sense, however. Earlier this month IBM dropped a separate attempt to patent outsourcing. It said it had changed its policies so it would pursue fewer frivolous applications and aim to lockdown original technical innovations, rather than tenuous "business methods".

There's an AP report on the patenting patent here. ®

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