IBM leads in patents, good for VC's

Once again, for the umpteenth time in a row, IBM leads in patents. There is also a component of working with the Open world increasing relevancy. Here are excerpts from the official statements:

The initiative has three elements:

· Open Patent Review – a program that seeks to establish an open, collaborative community review within the patenting process to improve the quality of patent examination. This program will allow anyone who visits the USPTO web site to submit search criteria and subscribe to receive regularly scheduled emails with links to newly published patent applications in requested areas. Established in conjunction with the USPTO, this program will encourage communities to review pending patent applications and to provide feedback to the patent office on existing prior art that may not have been discovered by the applicant or examiner. Professor Beth Noveck of New York Law School will lead a series of workshops on the subject. For more information, visit Professor Noveck’sproject website.

· Open Source Software as Prior Art – a project that will establish open source software – with its millions of lines of publicly available computer source code contributed by thousands of programmers – as potential prior art against patent applications. OSDL, IBM, Novell, Red Hat and VA Software’s SourceForge.net will develop a system that stores source code in an electronically searchable format, satisfying legal requirements to qualify as prior art. As a result, both patent examiners and the public will be able to use open source software to help ensure that patents are issued only for actual software inventions. Information for this project is available on the OSDL web site.

· Patent Quality Index – an initiative that will create a unified, numeric index to assess the quality of patents and patent applications. The effort will be directed by Professor R. Polk Wagner of the University of Pennsylvania with support from IBM and others and will be an open, public resource for the patent system. The index will be constructed with extensive community input, backed by statistical research and will become a dynamic, evolving tool with broad applicability for inventors, participants in the marketplace and the USPTO. Information about the Patent Quality Index is available also.

Recently, IBM announced that we’ve opened up the entire patent portfolio for our VC’s. Since we are driving towards open standards, connecting the dots here is not that difficult.

Working with IBM isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but we’re making steps to make our IP meaningful, and available to startups and a lot of other folks that would benefit from IBM help….what’s to lose?

IBM to offer 40,000 patents to VC's

If I were starting a company, I’d like to have a unique concept that I could patent and know that it was both a killer idea and have legal protection…oh yeah, I’d like a bunch of VC money also.

Since I’m not a good engineer, or an engineer at all (my Dad was engineer of the year in Florida, but I didn’t get those genes), the next best way is to have help and get the same benefits.

IBM has announced a plan to offer access to the 40,000 plus patent portfolio to VC’s that they can share with their startups. A pretty sweet deal, money and access to the patent leader. Pick your technology, hardware, software, services and a lot of other stuff. I’ve said before that one of the most under told story’s is the cool stuff that IBM research has. Can you imagine what the value of this portfolio is, not just in terms of money but the invention time must be staggering.

In planning this, we worked with our VC advisory council to see what they would want and how it should be structured. They come out a big winner as now they have something tangible other than just money to offer startups. They either pay a one time 3 year fee for alpha stage companies or for products that are ready, a 1% of revenue relate to an IBM patent (not the entire product). This is relatively the same terms that we offered the largest companies we deal with in these arrangements (yes i mean company’s located in Redmond). The VC’s were quite pleased with the terms as they were a part of structuring from the get go. They viewed it as very fair and were glad to be on equal footing with bigger players.

Most of the analyst comments centered around the tools to search this many patents. Amazing how they see right through everything and pick out vital points. To that, we will provide access to the inventor and the technology, and to the specific comments…we’ll be working on some search tools to help the VC’s.

Startups win as they get the patent protection (ask RIM and NTP about this) and VC money.

IBM wins as it is a reason to partner with us. We offer not only the protection issue, but access to some incredible research. Yefim Natis of Gartner pointed out that this is good for IBM in that patent portfolio is likely under used. Lou Gerstner issued a mandate when he was reshaping IBM that we WILL use research and patents in our products. Now it’s not only IBM products, but it is spreading out to the industry also.

We’ve been rightly criticized for not being far enough down in the SMB stack (in the S part). This may not be the golden egg, but it sure is a step in the right direction. You don’t get much more of an S than in a small startup.

Like all announcements, programs at maturity usually wind up being molded along the way due to various things like industry or technology trends. I’m sure this program will be also, but it’s an interesting start.

More information is found on the VC group link.

Bob Sutor blogs about it also.

VC's and Mentoring

IBM announced the VC advisory council and mentoring programs today. It was a good announcement and it got plenty of attention. A new term for me came out, BRIC which stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China.

We briefed a number of the analysts, so here are some of the comments.

There was a theme of emerging markets, some as a delivery model, some for cost reduction. The partner network is key in these countries as they are huge opportunities and no one company can cover it. Good thing IBM has a solid partnering program

Open is a big word. Both standards and software. Gluecode and PHP are big for IBM, but RUBY is something that VC’s are looking at.

The council gives quick connection for the VC’s to our executives. Cutting through the maze is a major task at any big company.

A big software company in the northwest is scaring their VC’s with uncertainty and fear of competing with them.

Here’s a link to the lead exec for this, who’s always a good read when checking out IBM and partnerning…

Buell Duncan