Feeds

Gates' patent legacy turns heat on IBM

Microsoft's hits factory fired up

High performance access to file storage

IBM has long placed a premium on patents - such a premium, its engineers are expected to routinely create and file patents to prove the company's technical leadership to the world.

Such is the expectation and the size of IBM's brains trust that each year for nearly a decade, IBM has been awarded more patents in the US than any other company on the planet.

In 2008, IBM shattered its own record, with 4,186 patents published.

Last year, though, it looked like Microsoft was finally starting to offer IBM some serious competition and - in doing so - deliver on a strategy initiated by Microsoft's founder and former chief software architect Bill Gates.

The number of patents granted to Microsoft grew by 43 per cent over 2008 to hit 2,903, pulling the company up from fourth place in the US Patent and Trademark Office rankings for 2008 to third in 2009.

IBM still managed to retain its number-one slot with 4,895 patents for 2009, but the numbers mean that if IBM and Microsoft continue at the same pace, Microsoft should slide into the number-two spot behind IBM. Then it's just a matter of time and filings before Microsoft deposes IBM at the top.

Microsoft is not growing the fastest when it comes to USPTO patent awards. That honor in 2009 went to Hon Hai Precision with a 39 per cent increase in awards, followed by LG Electronics and Cisco Systems on 32 and 30 per cent respectively. But Microsoft had a bigger portfolio.

Other high-tech companies are going backwards. Intel, Hewlett-Packard, and Hitachi saw their awards drop in 2009. That's possibly because some in the industry have begun to believe that owning a portfolio of patents is a waste of time and money, as people have failed to turn them into money making machines.

In terms of quality of patents, Microsoft's already beaten IBM according to a survey of patents awarded during the last five years by patent specialist Ocean Tomo. Microsoft scored more valuable patents than anybody else, while IBM ranked eighth in a list of ten.

Ocean Tomo measured patents by factors that included the number of prior patents cited, patent renewal payments, and litigation.

Ocean Tomo told BusinessWeek that IBM's portfolio includes a large number of service-related patents, which do not command as high a price as actual technology patents in things like video-games or software patents that feature heavily in Microsoft's portfolio.

IBM dismissed Ocean Tomo's conclusion, saying the ultimate value is "not some rating" but "the leverage we are able to get from the patent [licensing] negotiations."

There you have it fanbois: Those who think IBM walks on water because of the patents and IP its generously given to Linux and open-source, the mask as finally slipped. Patents to IBM are a currency it uses to get what it wants.

Horacio Gutiérrez, Microsoft's chief intellectual property officer, told BusinessWeek his company's patents are not a profit center but "a currency that you use to trade to another company" for its patents.

That's more in line with IBM's view, but to those like Gutiérrez who say Microsoft's patents are about trade and not profit don't forget the companies using Linux or implementing File Allocation Table (FAT) that Microsoft's played hard ball with on payments of royalties and alleged infringement of patents.

Lest we forget, it was Gates who in 2003 initiated Microsoft's program of filing more patents to get recognition for their value. He told financial analysts a year into the policy Microsoft was stepping up the pace of filings to boost the licensing of its technology and ideas to others.

"We're at an early state on that but it is something that we are pretty excited (about)," Gates said. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Windows 8.1, which you probably haven't upgraded to yet, ALREADY OBSOLETE
Pre-Update versions of new Windows version will no longer support patches
Batten down the hatches, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS due in TWO DAYS
Admins dab straining server brows in advance of Trusty Tahr's long-term support landing
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Windows XP still has 27 per cent market share on its deathbed
Windows 7 making some gains on XP Death Day
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
Microsoft TIER SMEAR changes app prices whether devs ask or not
Some go up, some go down, Redmond goes silent
Red Hat to ship RHEL 7 release candidate with a taste of container tech
Grab 'near-final' version of next Enterprise Linux next week
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.