IBM Takes Another Step To Changing The Patent Process

As I’ve written before, I’m a huge critic of the existing patent process, especially as it applies to software patents. Today, the NY Times has an article up describing how IBM will begin putting its patent filings online for public review. This is a huge positive step by IBM and shows real leadership in addressing our completely screwed up patent system.

IBM collaborated over the summer with a group of 50 experts from outside IBM to come up with a new approach to protecting intellectual property. The result of this effort is summarized in the report Building a New IP Marketplace. This is superb and exciting stuff. Since our government can’t seem to make any progress with this, I hope they’ll at least follow the leadership of some major industrial companies that while ultimately acting in their own self-interest (as they should) recognize that they get more economic benefit long term by fixing the underlying dysfunction.

  • Brad,

    While this is certainly a step in the right direction, and IBM does deserve *some* credit for this, I have to wonder what real value (other than PR) they are providing here?

    Since they are publishing patent filings (and not proposed filings), they are really only providing the same information that is already publicly available and searchable at once the application gets into the queue.
    I also saw no mention in their “Building a new IP Marketplace” document where they commit to this open, transparent process for all patents. It seems like they would be giving up little to do this for the bulk of their (trivial) patents, while still keeping their big IP close to the vest in a non-transparent process. Maybe I’m wrong, what am I missing here?

    Either way, it is nice to see the big boys spending time on this, In the long run it can only help a broken system.

  • I was excited about this story as well and am always reading about how our copyright system is a regime fraught with bad policy and inefficiencies. At least we are beginning to see some examination of the latter and how technology could improve the efficiencies- see for example.

    I see Ed’s point, though, that this story is great news but how realistic is it that IBM is really going to open their pending patent applications to public scrutiny. Yes the trivial patents would be nice to have out in the open so that the world/online community can review or analyze them but the real value-driving patents are extremely unlikely to face any true transparency in this experiment.

    Let’s take this IBM news as a good first step but hope that USPTO moves to an electronic and open patent system that automates part of the prior art processes and brings to light (much sooner) the frivolous technology patents that now litter the landscape.

    Can we get Lessig to weigh on some of these initiatives too?

    Brad- found your site thanks to AVC and liked the banner graphic of the Flatirons. I attended CC in C.Springs and my brother went to CU so it’s nice to get a little VC and Colorado flavor- you’re now on my reading list. Thanks.