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IBM has announced it will develop and host the Inventors’ Forum, an online initiative to share ideas on how smaller enterprises view patent systems.

In doing so, the Forum would seek to reform the patent process.

Several small and mid-sized companies – as well as individuals – have agreed to participate, including inventor Lonnie Johnson, patent holder of many inventions in thermodynamics.

IBM has also reached out to venture capitalists and other groups who play a role in the evolution of small businesses.

An IBM executive explained the need for the Forum.

With individuals and smaller companies responsible for much of the invention occurring worldwide, “it is important we provide a forum to understand their concerns and issues,” said John Kelly, IBM senior vice-president of technology and intellectual property.

He said such an initiative is crucial, “if we want to improve the overall health of our patent systems.”

IBM’s announcement follows IFI Patent Intelligence’s release of the top world-wide U.S. patent winners for 2006. IBM ranks top of the list, with Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. in second place, and Canon Inc. third.

In fact, 2006 set an all-time record of 173,772 patents issued.

The dramatic rise in patent applications from individuals and companies of all sizes is has been attributed to the renewed focus on economic growth by governments worldwide.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small companies earn nearly 15 times the number of patents per employee as large enterprises.

“Smaller companies have long been the silent majority in the invention community,” said Andy Gibbs, CEO of PatentCaf



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