IBM says it won't sue to protect open-source patents

IBM will not use its open-source patents in any potential legal actions it may bring against TurboHercules, an IBM company executive seemingly asserted on Wednesday.

"IBM stands by this 2005 Non-Assertion Pledge today as strongly as it did then. IBM will not sue for the infringement of any of those 500 patents by any Open Source Software," wrote Dan Frye, an IBM vice president of open systems development, in a letter sent to Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin.

Frye was responding to a question from Zemlin concerning a heated discussion in the open-source community about IBM's potential use of open-source patents in an ongoing dispute the company is having with Paris software company TurboHercules.

In March, IBM sent a letter to TurboHercules President Roger Bowler stating that the French company was illegally using IBM's patented technology in its open-source mainframe emulation software. In the letter, IBM listed 106 of its U.S. patents that are possibly being used by TurboHercules in the software.

According to a blog posting from software developer and political lobbyist Florian Mueller, two of the patents were among the 500 that IBM decreed in 2005 that it would not use against the open-source community.

In the letter to Zemlin, Frye did not discuss the TurboHercules case by name, though his letter expressed a promise "not to assert any of the 500 U.S. patents listed" against the development, use and distribution of open-source software.

Perhaps Frye will discuss the matter more in depth during his talk at the 2010 Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit next Wednesday in San Francisco.

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