ELEMENTARY MY DEAR…

ELEMENTARY MY DEAR…

Joe Casad, Editor in Chief

Joe Casad, Editor in Chief

Article from Issue 172/2015

How many patents are enough? Or perhaps more importantly, how many patents can be squeezed from one body of knowledge when you're basically doing what everyone else is doing? These questions are fresh in mind as I read the report at eWeek stating that IBM set a new record by receiving 7,534 patents in 2014, the 22nd year in a row that IBM has topped the list for most patents.

Dear Linux Pro Reader,

How many patents are enough? Or perhaps more importantly, how many patents can be squeezed from one body of knowledge when you're basically doing what everyone else is doing? These questions are fresh in mind as I read the report at eWeek stating that IBM set a new record by receiving 7,534 patents in 2014, the 22nd year in a row that IBM has topped the list for most patents.

Needless to say, the company needed many lawyers to secure all those patents, and they will need many, many more if they hope to defend them all. Perhaps more important, think of all the government patent officials who were tied up studying and approving those 7,534 patents, plus all the other IBM patent applications that weren't approved.

Big Blue apparently received around 500 patents for its work relating to the cutting-edge Watson cognitive computing system. Although I'm not a big fan of patents in general, I could certainly guess that the work on Watson would lead to some significant innovations that would, perhaps, meet the government definition for what it takes to be patentable. Surprisingly, though, Watson was not where the attorneys spent most of their time. The biggest share of this record-breaking patent haul went for technologies that the report says "enable key cloud computing, analytics, mobile, social, and security advancements."

Cloud computing, analytics, mobile, social networking, and security have been on everyone's mind this year. Hundreds of high-tech companies (some nearly as giant as IBM) and millions of people have worked in these fields for a generation or more – and some companies have done considerably more work on these topics than IBM. Yet we are encouraged to believe that IBM alone came up with several thousand significant, unique, and unprecedented "inventions" in one year from insights that had previously escaped the notice of HP, Apple, Oracle, Red Hat, Novell, Microsoft, Samsung, Amazon, Google, Dell, Facebook, and the rest of an industry that sinks billions of dollars every year into research and development?

Aw, come on now … we don't need Watson to tell us what to think about that.

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