CA opens access to 14 patents, announces deal with IBM

CA is opening 14 patents to the open-source community and also announced a long-term cross-licensing deal with IBM.

Computer Associates International (CA) will allow access to individuals and groups in the open-source software community to technology included in 14 of its U.S. patents and counterpart patents held in other countries, the company said Wednesday, as it also announced a long-term patent cross-license deal with IBM.

The two companies will exchange license rights and releases, CA said. The companies are not disclosing the number of patents or which patents are involved in that deal, said Mark Barrenechea, CA's executive vice president of technology strategy and chief technology architect. The companies have worked together on mainframe technologies and IBM's distributed computing technologies in both hardware and software, and also have a lot of the same customers, he noted.

IBM earlier this year opened 500 of its patents to open-source developers, pledging its support of a "patent commons" and calling on others in the industry to follow suit, creating industry-wide royalty-free patent access to the open-source community. CA has now joined in with IBM to encourage other vendors to also open patents. Novell, Nokia, Red Hat and Sun Microsystems have all opened patents and encouraged an industry "patent pool."

CA holds about 280 patents, so it will be opening 2 percent of its portfolio to the open-source community, Barrenechea said. The company, which is based in New York, will continue to assess its patent portfolio with an eye toward possibly opening additional patents over time, he said.

The next generation of developers is coming out of the open-source movement, he said, adding that they "need to flourish and develop unencumbered."

The CA patent commons will not be part of the recently announced Open Source Development Labs Inc. Patent Commons initiative, Barrenechea said, "but we absolutely support what OSDL is doing." The OSDL initiative aims to place software licenses and patents that are open to the open-source community into a central repository.

While CA wants to "increase the utility and value" of its patent commons, "at the same time we thought that the best way to get this property into the hands of developers was simply by leveraging IBM's effort," he said.

For its part, IBM is "clearly gratified to see CA join in" the effort, said company spokesman Tim Blair. The addition of CA into the patent commons initiative is leading to a "new point of balance between open and proprietary collaboration."

Some in the open-source community have, however, said that so far the patent commons initiatives of vendors have involved only companies that already are open-source friendly and that the larger issue is getting cooperation from companies that are not. Otherwise, open-source advocates generally look askance at the concept of patents in the first place, questioning whether that form of intellectual property is good for innovation and the industry generally. As a consequence, IT vendor pledges, including IBM's, have raised those questions among the open-source community.

Still and all, CA expects that its pledge will assist open-source projects in the patent areas it opened. Those areas, outlined Wednesday by CA, are:

-- Application development and modeling, which automates translation between programming languages and gives visual modeling and data objects editing.

-- Business intelligence and analytics, which simplifies visualization of multidimensional data with neural network technology and management of aggregation and population of data marts.

-- Systems management and storage management, providing process controls aimed at maximizing system performance and storage utilization.

-- Network management and security tools, which allow visualization of network traffic patterns and congestion, capturing and filtering network traffic selectively and offering granular session control.

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