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IBM Modifies Its Patent Policy

IBM says it's going to make about 100 of its business method patents it owns, available to the public

IBM says it's going to make about 100 of its business method patents, about half of the business method patents it owns, available to the public and acknowledge its direct ownership of all the patents it holds and patent applications it's made in cases where, sly puss, it might have used a surrogate or shell company when it filed.

These modest enough reforms are part of a new patent policy that IBM says it is implementing worldwide as a result of a two-month online colloquy that it had with some 50 outside IP experts back in May and June to upgrade patent quality in the name of promoting innovation.

It's unclear how valuable the business methods patents are that IBM is opening up.

But sensitized by grassroots complaints over patents, IBM now says, "Pure business methods without technical merit should not be patentable." And that it "will focus future business method filings on those with substantial technical content, and as a result, expects to substantially reduce its filing of business method patents."

Under the company's new policy, IBM expects to be spending "thousands of hours annually" reviewing published patent applications submitted to patent offices and providing pertinent prior art to assist the US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) in verifying the patentability of submissions as part of the PTO's Community Patent Review pilot.

Among the principles it is now espousing, IBM figures "patent applicants are responsible for the quality and clarity of their patent applications. Patent applications must be written with clear specifications and claims, and include a thorough review of prior art."

It also figures that patent applications should be available for public examination and comment and says it will make its patent applications open to "community review" in an effort to sort out prior art.

Of course, patent applications are generally published automatically 18 months after filing.

Striving to strike a leadership stance, IBM senior VP for technology and intellectual property Dr. John E. Kelly III says, "IBM is holding itself to a higher standard than any law requires."

IBM says the wiki that it conducted with the 50 experts resulted in "a collaboratively written document that establishes the foundation for building a functioning marketplace for the creation, ownership, licensing and equitable exchange of intellectual property." It's published the thing at www.ibm.com/gio/ip and hard copies are available by contacting [email protected]

--Copyright Client/Server News

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JDJ News Desk monitors the world of Java to present IT professionals with updates on technology advances, business trends, new products and standards in the Java and i-technology space.

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