Thornburg contributes news of a story spotted on Techmeme, writing: "[Joel Spolsky of] Joel On Software has a story about how he found and submitted prior art for a Microsoft patent listed on Ask Patents in 15 minutes. The patent was rejected based largely on the document he submitted." Spolsky gives a very readable introduction to the patent system, and software patents in particular; I especially like this part: "Software patent applications are of uniformly poor quality. They are remarkably easy to find prior art for. Ask Patents can be used to block them with very little work. And this kind of individual destruction of one software patent application at a time might start to make a dent in the mountain of bad patents getting granted. ... How cool would it be if Apple, Samsung, Oracle and Google got into a Mexican Standoff on Ask Patents? If each of those companies had three or four engineers dedicating a few hours every day to picking off their competitors’ applications, the number of granted patents to those companies would grind to a halt."