An interesting article on dubious patents ("Owning the Future: Patent Pollution", by Seth Shulman) appears in the July/August 2001 issue of Technology Review Magazine.
Shulman points out, "as almost anyone in the intellectual-property game will tell you, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office continues to grant patents that are, well, patently invalid. I'm talking about patents for things that have either already been invented or are so straightforward and apparent they don't meet the patent's law requirements for being novel and nonobvious."
He continues, "For years, people have griped about these bogus patent claims . . . And the patent office has long promised to do better. But now two Web-based ventures, IP.com and BountyQuest, are taking their own steps to rein in bad patentsóeither by stopping them before they are granted or by knocking them out after the fact. What makes these startups really interesting is that they are attracting support across a broad spectrum of intellectual-property players — from patent system boosters to open-source programmers. In the polarized IP field, that is no small feat."
IP.com is a partner with Foresight in the PriorArt.org project, a joint venture that gives open-source and free-software developers the chance to 'defensively publish', and place their innovations in a searchable software database.