Sunday, April 10, 2005

IBM opens lid on its treasure chest

Another year and IBM takes yet again the largest number of patents and copyrights.

The general thrust behind intellectual property rights is that what is worth copying is worth protecting. In so doing, it attempts to balance the rights of the innovator on the one hand, with the idea that society has a right to the free access of such ideas. Ideas don't exist in a vacuum unless you're Plato. So whatever it is that you invented or thought of, generally comes on the back of some other idea or invention. Or as Newton once 'modestly' puts it (he might have been insulting his shorter rivals), by standing on the shoulder of giants, he sees further than those giants did.

This article is good for a brief overview of what's been happening and what's going to happen. In particular, it mentions the changes in a company's attitute towards proprietry information and that in particular it does not always serve the best interests of the company to keep it all closed. The trend that they identified pushing this idea is the increasing necessity via globalisation for greater access and sharing of information amongst companies.

So, for IBM, who has always championed open-source and whose business is no longer in the hardware side of things, information is everything; collection, storage, retrieval and use. As such, they are uniquely poised to take advantage of collaborative efforts than would a company like Microsoft, which fundamentally seeks to push its own brand of software.

But on the flip side, it is premised on the idea that elephants can dance. Big Blue (IBM) must be able to move up the economic food chain as it releases its data to its nimbler rivals. Or it would run the risk of being another AT&T (which has since been bought over by one of its spin-offs) and unravelling all the effort that they made in the 90s to reposition themselves successfully after losing ground back in the 80s.

In other news, exams are pretty soon i.e. tomorrow. So I'll probably not be updating for some time.



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