Although I’ve never talked about the Eco-Patent Commons before I’ve actually been involved in this project since its inception. You might wonder why, given that it doesn’t really have anything to do with standards and open source which are my primary focus.
It’s one of those “special projects” we have at IBM which do not necessarily fall within the scope of anyone’s responsibilities, and for which we pull in people with various skills to help out.
What I brought to the project was experience with patent pledges and policies as well as organizations/associations of various interested parties (regarding process, governance, etc.)
The initial idea came out of IBM’s Global Innovation Outlook program. A program in which we invite people from all around the world to meet and discuss “the most vexing challenges on earth” and what might be done about them.
In this case the idea that came out of the GIO was to share patents to help protect the environment and foster innovation in that field.
For several years IBM had been experimenting with non traditional ways to use our patent portfolio. We thus did several patent pledges in support of Linux, Open Source, Web services based healthcare and education related standards, and others. So, the idea of allowing one to use our patents on a royalty free basis for a specific purpose was no foreign concept to IBM and doing so in support of the protection of the environment fit within this trend. It was therefore agreed upon within IBM without much controversy.
Because we didn’t want this to be just an IBM thing however, we looked for a neutral host and invited other companies to participate in the creation of a patent commons.
We investigated several possible hosts and eventually settled on the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) which welcomed us with enthusiasm.
WBCSD is perfect for this because the project fits well within its mission and, WBCSD is an international organization with participation from companies from all around the world.
The Eco-Patent Commons was launched in January 2008 with the participation of Nokia, Pitney Bowes, and Sony, in addition to IBM.
While we haven’t seen an explosion in participation the commons exists and keeps on growing both in terms of number of patents and in number of members. This is very encouraging. The idea of pledging patents is still brand new so, it’s no surprise it takes time for companies to get comfortable with it. The fact that several companies have already done so leaves me without doubt that more are to join us.
I invite you to familiarize yourself with the Eco-Patent Commons. Investigate whether your company might join and talk about it around you. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
I don’t usually talk much about what IBM does but today I’m going to.
People I work with know that I’m usually pretty vocal about what I think the company doesn’t do well but if there is one thing that IBM does really well in my experience is support.
I’ve been at IBM for close to 9 years now and this has been true all along. Whenever some piece of material breaks down it gets fixed extremely quickly and painlessly.
I just had a couple of such experiences. Last week a disk on one of my computers started to fail. I called support in the afternoon and the very next morning a new disk was delivered to my door. I work from home.
Most defective items have to be returned. But IBM support makes that really easy. With the new item comes a label to ship the defective part back. All you have to do is place the old part in the package, stick the label on top of the old one, and order the pick up either by phone or over the web. In some cases, the box even contains a piece of tape for you to use. Can’t be easier.
Last Friday my son managed to pour a glass of water over my keyboard. I called support and this Monday morning I received a new keyboard.
In cases when the whole computer has to be sent, you first receive a shipping box – overnight – to send it in. Typically two days later you get it back repaired. The turnover can’t be better.
I should point out that this is no special services for employees. This is the exact same service anybody gets.
Anyway, I can’t say I have much experience with many other companies when it comes to support but I have never seen anything getting close to what IBM does in this regard.
I’ve actually realized that I like that so much that it’s often something I bring up when people ask me what it’s like to work at IBM.
So, it’s only fair that I should give the company credit for that.
I work for Bob Sutor in IBM’s Open source and standards project office. Given Bob’s level of activity and celebrity in the “blogosphere” I suppose it won’t be a surprise to anyone if I say that he’s been trying to get me to create my own blog for a long time.
So, why am I doing this now? Well, I’ve been participating in various public debates lately, such as the Goscon panel, and the need to be able to follow up and tell what I think on certain issues, such as OOXML, has been nagging me. Since blogs have now become the main communication channel for one to express himself, for better or for worse, I’ve decided to put aside all of the issues I have with them and forge ahead.
Now, let me explain why despite Bob’s insistence I have until now refrained from creating a public blog.
The first reason is that I find blogs to be very egocentric. And while I don’t claim to be particularly more humble than anyone else this fundamentally bugs me.
I’m a long time internet user and I used to be very active in public forums (a.k.a newsgroups) and mailing lists. The fundamental difference between these communication channels and blogs is that each of them typically focuses on a particular topic. Blogs on the other hand are centered around individuals. Furthermore, while comments and trackbacks provide for some level of dialog, blogs are primarily one way communication channels, unlike newsgroups and mailing lists that are essentially symmetrical. The fact that most syndication feeds merely communicate the blogger’s entries and not the comments only makes this worse.
Aside from the egocentric nature of blogs, another reason for not having created a blog earlier is the fact that blogs very often have no particular topic. This means that readers have to deal with all sorts of information that they may have no interest in to get to the information they do have an interest in. A perfect example of this is Bob’s blog. I’m very interested in Bob’s opinion when it comes to open source and standards. In fact, open source and standards being the focus of my own job it’s pretty essential for me to read Bob’s blog. But quite frankly I’m not so interested in his opinion on music and Bob Dylan. Not that I think there is anything wrong with his taste, I might actually be happy to engage in a discussion on that very topic while having a casual dinner with him but in the context of my work this is just noise.
Finally, the third reason for not having created a blog earlier is simply time. Lack of it that is. Like many, I already have a hard time keeping up with the email I receive and dealing with the long list of projects I’m responsible for. I know from past experience that engaging in public discussions on the internet can be very time consuming and I just don’t know that I can dedicate enough time to this to do it well.
For what it’s worth I’ve been wondering how Bob manages to write so much. Having just traveled with him I think I now have part of the answer. I think the amount of travel he does associated with the fact that he insists on being at the airport up to 4 hours ahead of his flight has something to do with it…
Don’t expect this to be my personal diary. Even though the opinions expressed hereby are only mine and do not necessarily represent those of my employer I intend to use this blog primarily for work purposes.
Of course, the lack of time will remain a problem and for that reason if nothing else I won’t commit to writing on a regular basis. Hopefully though, one will find interest in what I manage to publish.