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IBM Pushes New Patent Policies

IBM  is not alone in thinking that the patent system is broken.

But with a portfolio of over 40,000 patents and an estimated $1 billion in annual revenues generated by its intellectual property, Big Blue may have the clout to do something about it.

The Armonk, N.Y., company today laid out new patent governing principles by which it intends to abide, and challenged the rest of the technology world to follow its example.

IBM wants to change the way people file for and are awarded patents, a system that is sagging under the weight of a growing number of questionable applications and lawsuits.

So, rather than waiting for Congress or the courts to sort out the mess, IBM has created its own set of reforms.

IBM wants, among other things: patent applicants to be responsible for the quality and clarity of their patent applications; patent applications to be available for public examination; patent ownership to be transparent; and for patents not to be granted for business methods lacking technical merit.

"IBM has the street cred with partners and fellow inventors, as well as with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office [USPTO]," said Ari Fishkind, public affairs manager at IBM's technology and intellectual property division.

"We can help lead by example and try to make an impact," he told internetnews.com.

According to Fishkind, the poor quality of many patent applications and the poor behavior of many parties to whom patents are granted are creating a litigious atmosphere.

The new policy is designed to counter this trend by fostering integrity, a healthier environment for innovation and mutual respect for intellectual property rights.

"We think that most prefer to innovate, not litigate. [The new policy] will hopefully set the stage for that," said Fishkind.

IBM also committed itself to providing technical experts to spend thousands of hours annually reviewing published patent applications submitted to patent offices.

For example, IBM experts will assist the USPTO in verifying the patentability of submissions as part of the USPTO Community Patent Review pilot.

IBM also plans to make its patent applications open to community review.