Two ‘big’ news items today:

1. Apple is trying to prevent folks from using the word ‘podcast’
2. IBM is pushing for patent reforms

On the surface, it would look like one company (IBM) is opening up their komodo while the other (Apple) is closing it, or at least trying to put some pants on underneath.

But often, there’s more to a story than your initial gut response.

Re. IBM’s announcement, the part that made me happy is the assertion

“that so-called business methods alone — broad descriptions of ideas, without technical specifics — should not be patentable.”

Cool, make it so! Now, it would be interesting to know how many of the patents IBM received over the past 5 years fall into this ‘business methods’ bucket. And let’s sweeten the pot by pledging not to enforce said patents. Go IBM, make your employees feel warm and fuzzy for doing the right thing before the “market considers it the right thing”. We’ve done it before.

So, IBM’s being more open, but there’s more that can be done. Baby steps I guess.

Re. Apple: Everybody calls facial tissue ‘Kleenex’, and photocopiers ‘Xerox machines’. But if I try to brand my facial tissue company ‘KleenNose’ or ‘KleenexPlus’ or my whiz-bang photocopier ‘Xeroxr’ (an ode to Flickr), well, Kleenex and Xerox are going to want to have a little sit down with me.

Anonymous Codger on slashdot says:

“Looks to me like Apple is going after companies trying to profit from their trademark. They’re not going after the term Podcasting in general use, they’re simply trying to stop companies from using the term in for-profit activities. The term obviously refers to iPods, so it makes sense to me that Apple would defend their trademark in this way.”

If you read the Cease & Desist letter, I’d have to agree with Anonymous Codger. Apple isn’t saying don’t use the term ‘podcast’, they are saying don’t use the term ‘podcast’ in a company name or the name of a commercial product. And if they don’t attempt to defend their trademark (iPod), then Apple stands to lose it.

So maybe Apple isn’t being as closed as they appear to be at first glance