RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – IBM and open source are not synonymous, but Big Blue is seeking to open up a bit.

While Microsoft continues to squabble with open source developers such as Red Hat, IBM appears to be taking a different path.

On Wednesday, IBM said it was offering “universal and perpetual access” to protected intellectual property that could be used to implement a wide variety of Web standards and improve software interoperability.

IBM described its decision as “the largest of its kind” and could provide a boost to the rapidly growing Web services market.

If the opening up of IBM software works as intended, the end results will include innovation and less litigation.

“The associated patents were previously available under royalty-free licensing terms, but IBM’s covenant not to sue simplifies the process by offering access to anyone, so long as they do not bring patent infringement claims related to the specification,” noted Computer Business Review.

It’s CBR’s view that IBM’s decision “has effectively turned the stockpiling of intellectual property on its head, making it clear that offering patent protection for everyone is as good a defense against patent claims as keeping details of potential patent claims secret.”

InfoWorld noted that IBM has some 40,000 patents, and Wednesday’s announcement should come as a relief to developers, Michael Goulde of Forrester Research told the publication.

"Nobody’s going to change what they’re doing. I think they’re just going to be able to do it with one less concern over their head," Goulde said.