IBM (NYSE:IBM) has made an immensely important and forward-thinking step in helping foster innovation by leading the way for patent reform. The New York Times has an article today outlining IBM's plans to revamp its patent disclosure and filing process.
Hoping to Be a Model, I.B.M. Will Put Its Patent Filings Online
By STEVE LOHR
I.B.M., the nation’s largest patent holder, will publish its patent filings on the Web for public review as part of a new policy that the company hopes will be a model for others.
If widely adopted, the policy could help to curb the rising wave of patent disputes and patent litigation.
The policy, being announced today, includes standards like clearly identifying the corporate ownership of patents, to avoid filings that cloak authorship under the name of an individual or dummy company. It also asserts that so-called business methods alone — broad descriptions of ideas, without technical specifics — should not be patentable...[click to read full article]
At the heart of today's announcement are the following points:
Publication all of its patents (granted and pending) on the web Standards for clear disclosure of patent filers and holders (i.e,. elimination of shell companies and cloak-and-dagger names) No more patents based on business processes (without commensurate technical merit)
IBM CEO Sam Palmisano was quoted:
The larger picture here is that intellectual property is the crucial capital in a global knowledge economy,” said Samuel J. Palmisano, I.B.M.’s chief executive. “If you need a dozen lawyers involved every time you want to do something, it’s going to be a huge barrier. We need to make sure that intellectual property is not used as a barrier to growth in the future.""
This is INCREDIBLY powerful stuff, and hopefully will light a fire under the current administration to expedite its long-debated patent reform legislation. Patent filings and litigation resulting from those filings has exploded in recent years. The absurdity of some of the filings is unquestionable. Big Blue has been granted more U.S. patents than any other company for 13 consecutive years (and are probably a good bet to take the crown again in 2006), with just under 3,000 issued last year. One would think they have a vested interest in protecting the status quo, but in fact they're pushing the envelope.
Today's news is an extension of work IBM has been doing with other companies on patent reform. IBM worked with more than 50 companies on patent reform guidelines in a collaborative wiki and published the findings in a report: Building a New IP Marketplace.
Hats off to Big Blue on a very progressive idea, and one that is not without business risk. Ultimately IBM executives have the right idea, which is to say if pending patents are truly innovative and based on technological advances, the fact they're public poses no real threat.
Brad Feld: IBM Takes Another Step in Reforming the Patent Process Fred Wilson: Do Patents Encourage or Stifle Innovation
Note: At the time of this writing I, and/or funds I maintain discretionary control over, did not maintain a position (long or short) in IBM.