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Open Source Cloud: Article

IBM Patent Database Created

PatentCafe Sets Up Database of 500 Patents

A California outfit by the name of PatentCafe has set up a database of the 500 patents that IBM has pledged to open up to open source developers claiming its natural language-based search engine will accelerate developers' use of the patents.

PatentCafe warns that developers "still need to remain vigilant even if using the information in a pledged IBM patent" since their software programs "could still be found to infringe a different company's patent," which kinda mitigates its utility.

The outfit says it intends to enlarge the project to search open source software patents worldwide. Developers are supposed to be able to create a hierarchical list of the most relevant patents and find the patents most related to their software projects.

PatentCafe says natural language search queries describe the concept of the software functions developers are looking for. By comparison, the US Patent and Trademark Office's search engine can only return patents that literally match keywords used in the search query. PatentCafe said its semantic analysis patent search will identify the most relevant of IBM's 500 patents in seconds.

It said the IBM patents were granted between January of 1993 and December of 2001 and software terms and industry jargon changed during this time, making many patents difficult to find if the searcher uses keywords that don't exactly match words contained in the older patents. For instance, the term "business method" was not a common term used in the early 1990s.

PatentCafe's Latent Semantic Analysis engine employs a Concept Space, or "patent-smart" neural net that the computer has created by "learning" the concepts while indexing more than 23 million patents, currently one of the world's largest patent databases.

It's unclear whether PatentCafe's own interpretive technology is patented or licensed.

PatentCafe CEO Andy Gibbs says developers "can copy in a search query containing a 100-word functional software specification and instantly retrieve a relevancy-ranked list of the most appropriate IBM patents - something no legacy patent search engine will allow."

See http://www.IAMcafe.com

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Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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Most Recent Comments
Phleg 01/29/05 03:13:29 PM EST

This is not the magnanimous move you might think it is, but one that will both benefit open source and IBM quite greatly.

You see, IBM isn't really in software development any more. Besides Eclipse, WebSphere, and Lotus, they don't make too many more software products. Their entire business is service deployment. In other words, they let the geeks write the software, then they package it up nicely, integrate it, and sell it off to their customers along with a service agreement.

This is IBM trying to commoditize the software market, and it's an excellent strategy.

sunspot42 01/29/05 02:51:59 PM EST

IBM knows it could never exploit all of those patents as successfully on its own as the vast OSS development community can. They're "giving" these patents away to the OSS community in the hope a million code writing geeks will turn at least some of them into digital gold that corporations and governments around the world will adopt in droves.

BrynM 01/29/05 02:47:32 PM EST

IBM has a huge hardware and consulting business. If you think of how open source is growing more robust, getting out of the sofware market might be a good idea. Even laymen are aware of open/free software now.

I think IBM is looking 20 years ahead and seeing a huge library of OSS code that the public will itself build upon. Think of all of the libraries in your average *nix system that would have been considered completely legacy and abandoned a long time ago by proprietary companies. Some of that code will be around in the years to come. In this light, proprietary companied are reinventing the wheel from their own code libraries rather than the vast sea of open source. It makes great long term sense for IBM to migrate their business to the things the average person is incapable of: creating complex hardware and consulting for complex solutions. Don't forget that they charge top dollar for both ;)

domenic v1.0 01/29/05 02:45:50 PM EST

500 patents is a tiny fraction of the mountain of patents they own.

Total_wimp 01/29/05 02:44:43 PM EST

It seems IBM forsees a future in which software is commoditized. This doesn't bother them because they sell lots and lots of hardware. It seems they believe they will sell even more hardware if people aren't "wasting" their money on software.

See the cycle? If much of the money that previously went to Redmond goes to them instead, do you see how they just might make a buck or two?

Open source changes the notion of who will make money. IBM has made major moves to make sure they will be the benefactors of this change.

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