K-boy writes "The US Patent Office has announced new plans to reform the patent system - and right up there at the front is open-source software. Techworld argues that it is in fact open-source software that has been the driving force behind the reform." From the New York Times article: "At a meeting last month with companies and organizations that support open-source software (software that can be distributed and modified freely), including I.B.M., Red Hat, Novell and some universities, officials of the patent office discussed how to give patent examiners access to better information and other ways to issue higher-quality patents. Two of the initiatives would rely on recently developed Internet technologies. An open patent review program would set up a system on the patent office Web site where visitors could submit search criteria and subscribe to electronic alerts about patent applications in specific areas."