What does IP stand for? Incredible Price? Innovation Privilege? Institutional Practice? Inevitable Problem? OK, in this case, it really stands for Intellectual Property, but some of the other characteristics are also fitting, especially as software patents lead to big business opportunities for many companies. It has me convinced that there are three professions that will never wane--doctors, veterinarians, and patent lawyers. People tend to take care of themselves, their pets, and, increasingly, their software. To wit, software patents are exploding--Microsoft expects to expand its portfolio by 3,000 in 2005. (It already holds 5,000 patents.) IBM recently named a VP for technology and intellectual property and formed a new IP-strategy unit. Sun Microsystems agreed to pay Eastman Kodak $92 million to settle a 2-year-old patent dispute involving the Java programming language.
But despite Sun's legal woes and anyone standing in the path of SCO's Darl McBride right now, patenting software is changing the landscape of innovation. As it becomes increasingly more difficult for any one company to control all the pieces it needs to bring innovative products to the market, technology vendors are seeking new ways to license their IP to other companies and integrate open standards into their software. Ultimately, faster technology transfers will mean that products and services will get to the market faster. And there are big bucks to be made in the development phase: IBM made about $1 billion in profit last year from licensing its IP.
On Oct. 18, we'll bring you more on the future of R&D, IP licensing, and other issues through discussions with some of the nation's top computer scientists and perspectives from industry visionaries. Stay tuned.
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