IBM wants to lead on patent reform

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IBM wants to lead on patent reform

Big Blue eyes 'patent trolls' and business methods.

IBM has launched an initiative to open the discussion of US patent reform, as the system struggles under a growing mountain of applications.

Big Blue is the biggest register of non-Federal patent in the US. The firm filed 2,941 successful utility patents in 2005, making it the largest commercial applicant for the 13th consecutive year, according to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). 

The latest move follows ongoing criticism of the patent system. Prime among the offenders are so-called "patent trolls", companies which enforce their rights against alleged infringers, often settling out of court for large sums while never intending to use these patents in products or services.

Another major issue is that the patent review system has begun to creak under the strain of proliferating "business method" patents, which allow firms to apply for patent rights to any method involved in the business.

The USPTO has acknowledged significant delays in dealing with the volume of these applications, and in finding suitable examiners to assess them.

"Many of the world's patent systems were developed decades or even centuries ago to promote the invention of physical goods, and have not evolved to include mechanisms needed to support this expanded role," said John E Kelly, IBM's senior vice president of technology and intellectual property.

IBM has set up an initiative called Global Innovation Outlook 2.0 to bring together ideas from a worldwide community of 50 experts in the fields of law, academia, economics, government and technology.

The experts took part in a discussion on the intellectual property marketplace during May and June this year, using a wiki to record their ideas on five key patent areas: quality, transparency, integrity, valuation and flexibility.

The resulting report, Building a New IP Marketplace, includes support for the USPTO Community Patent Review pilot, a peer review model process.
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