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Because if the second company tries to assert one of its own patents against an open source project, IBM will withdraw that company's right to use the IBM patents.
IBM's right to revoke
Posted Jan 14, 2005 1:48 UTC (Fri) by giraffedata (subscriber, #1954)
And I'm sorry to see that. It reinforces the mistaken impression many people have that lawsuits are bad things and inequities are caused by the availability of a court system.
Lawsuits are good. They protect little guys from big guys; nice people from immoral ones. The problems that get ascribed to lawsuits are actually due to the underlying liability that allows one to win a lawsuit. All a lawsuit is is a way to get money from someone who owes you (at least in your opinion) and won't pay.
IBM's pledge creates a bizarre situation where if Company A writes a letter to Company B saying, "Hey, you're using our patent. Pay up" then to exploit IBM's generosity, Company B has to say, "Screw you. I'm stealing your invention and you can't stop me!" I.e. he has to make Company A sue him even though he knows Company A is right. He has to be immoral. It would be better if IBM said "asserts rights" instead of "files lawsuit," because then the letter would never come in the first place. In fact, upon request Company A would probably have to send a letter saying, "you're welcome to use our patent."
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