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The US Patent and Trademark Office is working with open-source developers to improve the way patents are applied to software.

The USPTO has been talking to several firms, including IBM. Big Blue topped the patent charts again last year with 2,941 applications.

The Patent Office will provide an open patent review section on its website so interested parties can search for patent applications in certain areas, or register to get an alert when someone files for a relevant patent. This would make it easier for people to show "prior art".

The office will also work to provide a quality index to show people best practice when applying for patents.

Jon Dudas, under secretary of commerce for intellectual property, said: "For years now, we have been hearing concerns from the software community about the patent system. It is important that those in the open-source community are joining USPTO to provide resources that are key to examining software-related applications."

There will be an open public meeting on 16 February at USPTO's HQ to discuss the changes.

More details from the Patent Office here and from the New York Times here.®

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