For those of us that have worked for years in open source, rumors in the press of IBM “breaking its open source patent pledge” were met with a bit of dismay. IBM is one of the top contributors to the Linux kernel and dozens of critical open source projects. For more than a decade IBM has been a good citizen in the open source community.
To get to the bottom of things I contacted Dan Frye, VP of Open Systems Development at IBM and member of the Linux Foundations board of directors, to “say it wasn’t so.” Fortunately all of us can breathe easy - IBM remains true to their word. Here is the note I received from Dan which is very clear:
There’s been recent interest in IBM’s “500 patent” pledge made in 2005 and how it applies today. It’s always important to get the facts, and the words of the pledge itself  are the facts we need.
“The pledge will benefit any Open Source Software. Open Source Software is any computer software program whose source code is published and available for inspection and use by anyone, and is made available under a license agreement that permits recipients to copy, modify and distribute the program’s source code without payment of fees or royalties. All licenses certified by opensource.org and listed on their website as of 01/11/2005 are Open Source Software licenses for the purpose of this pledge.
“IBM hereby commits not to assert any of the 500 U.S. patents listed below, as well as all counterparts of these patents issued in other countries, against the development, use or distribution of Open Source Software.”
IBM stands by this 2005 Non-Assertion Pledge today as strongly as it did then. IBM will not sue for the infringement of any of those 500 patents by any Open Source Software.
VP, Open Systems Development
IBM Linux Technology Center