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IBM leads in U.S. patents and introduces initiatives for improved patent quality

IBM Haifa Labs News Center

January 15, 2006

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today released its annual list of the top patentees. With 2,941, IBM earned more U.S. patents than any other company for the thirteenth consecutive year.

IBM also announced an initiative it is undertaking with the USPTO, Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), members of the open source software community and academia that is focused on improving US patent quality. The unprecedented partnership between these parties to improve patent quality will help accelerate innovation in the United States.

The initiative has three elements:
  • Open Patent Review – a program that seeks to establish an open, collaborative community review within the patenting process to improve the quality of patent examination. This program will allow anyone who visits the USPTO web site to submit search criteria and subscribe to receive regularly scheduled emails with links to newly published patent applications in requested areas. Established in conjunction with the USPTO, this program will encourage communities to review pending patent applications and to provide feedback to the patent office on existing prior art that may not have been discovered by the applicant or examiner. Professor Beth Noveck of New York Law School will lead a series of workshops on the subject. For more information, visit Professor Noveck’s project website at

  • Open Source Software as Prior Art – a project that will establish open source software – with its millions of lines of publicly available computer source code contributed by thousands of programmers – as potential prior art against patent applications. OSDL, IBM, Novell, Red Hat and VA Software’s will develop a system that stores source code in an electronically searchable format, satisfying legal requirements to qualify as prior art. As a result, both patent examiners and the public will be able to use open source software to help ensure that patents are issued only for actual software inventions. Information for this project is available on the OSDL web site at: at:

  • Patent Quality Index – an initiative that will create a unified, numeric index to assess the quality of patents and patent applications. The effort will be directed by Professor R. Polk Wagner of the University of Pennsylvania with support from IBM and others and will be an open, public resource for the patent system. The index will be constructed with extensive community input, backed by statistical research and will become a dynamic, evolving tool with broad applicability for inventors, participants in the marketplace and the Patent USPTO. Information about the Patent Quality Index is available at:

"These important efforts among open source developers, vendors, end users and government to improve patent quality will reduce potential legal threats to open source developers and businesses," said Diane Peters, general counsel, OSDL. "OSDL is eager to extend its work on open source legal initiatives to collaborate with IBM, the U.S. Patent Office and the open source community. This work will further the adoption of, and confidence in, Linux and open source technologies."

"IBM believes that patents should be granted only for ideas that embody genuine scientific progress and technological innovation," said Dr. John E. Kelly III, IBM senior vice president of Technology and Intellectual Property. "Raising the quality of patents will encourage continued investment in research and development by individual inventors, small businesses, corporations and academic institutions while helping to prevent over-protection that works against innovation and the public interest."

High-quality patents increase certainty around intellectual property rights, reducing contention and freeing resources to focus on innovation.

All three initiatives are open to all who are interested, and broad participation is encouraged. The USPTO has planned a public meeting to further the projects at its offices in Alexandria, Virginia scheduled for February 16, 2006.

In 2005, IBM received 1,100 more patents than any other company. This is the eighth consecutive year IBM has received more than 2,000 U.S. patents.

The 2005 patent results were reported today by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. An agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the USPTO issues patents, administers the patent and trademark laws of the U.S. and advises the Administration on intellectual property policy.

Results and ranking also were reported today by IFI CLAIMS Patent Services, which compiles the CLAIMS© patent database and annually reports the number of U.S. patents issued to companies. According to IFI CLAIMS, IBM inventors were listed on 31 additional patents awarded to other primary assignees for a total of 2,972 patents.


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