Even Groklaw, which should be all over this one, is silent on this issue.
This issue is far-reaching: IBM is suing Amazon for patent infringement, and the patents – to me, not a lawyer – appear to cover almost all forms of e-commerce, from ads to online catalogs.
Take a step back, and you’ll see that if IBM is successful against Amazon (not a given, obviously), IBM can require licenses for just about any site that displays ads/sells product.
So what’s really going on here? IBM has championed open-source software (OSS), and – as the patent leader in the software industry – has “donated” hundreds of patents to the public, pledging to never enforce them so the internet can flourish without worries that come up from SCO nuisance suits.
The suit against Amazon – while it could lead to a pot ‘o gold (and IBM is a for-profit business) – seems at odds with what it’s been doing over the past few years re:patents and OSS.
I think this action by IBM is a shot across the bow to Amazon regarding Amazon’s ridiculous 1-Click patent (even iTunes has to license this so-called technology).
To me, it’s IBM’s way of telling Amazon to either: 1) Donate the patent to the public, or 2) At the very least, don’t pull any shit like this in the future.
Why do I think this?
- As I mentioned, this patent nonsense is not in keeping with IBM’s recent behavior, so it’s suspect.
- IBM has more to lose by winning this battle than by keeping Amazon in check. IBM is services and hardware/software – the more people who use it, the better. If Amazon keeps forcing licensing to the 1-Click (or other obvious patents), the barrier to entry will be higher. So IBM will sell less services and product. Ditto if IBM wins and erects toll booths.
- If they win – and it’ll cost a bit to get there – they really can’t afford to go after too many deep pockets, because – again – it’ll put a chill on the industry and, again, IBM’s sales will take a hit.
- IBM is years deep in its defense against SCO’s charges of some sort of Linux tampering (alleged tampering varies by the day almost). From the beginning, SCO’s attempt to, essentially, put a toll booth on Linux has cost the Utah-based company dearly in a public relations manner (and other ways, was well); IBM has gained a lot of respect and kudos for not backing down to these ridiculous charges and fighting to keep Linux open and free. It well understands the PR firestorm toll booths could potentially create.
There is one dark horse in this battle: Let’s assume IBM goes ahead with the litigation, wins, and it turns out IBM’s patents are prior art that nullify Amazon’s 1-Click patent.
What happens then? Amazon takes a huge hit, as all the licensing fees for the patent are gone (retroactively?), and IBM puts the patent in the public, so they can sell more services, hardware and software.
I don’t think IBM is going after Amazon to really set up toll booths on the internet, as Berlind has postulated.
They are trying – in one way or another – to make sure no toll booths exist, so the company can keep making money on everything else.
Remember – In business, sometimes it’s better to have something and make no money off it than to have a competitor have same and they’re making money off it (or has the potential to, somehow, monetize it).
I think this is one of the major reasons Google purchased YouTube: So no one else could.
Think about that.