According to a New York Times article, IBM is to put it's patent filings online. IBM is the USA's largest patent holder and hopes that this move will make it a model for other patent holders. I hope Microsoft, Sun, Oracle, Adobe et al take notice and take the same approach.
The policy includes standards like clearly identifying the corporate ownership of patents, to avoid filings that cloak authorship under the name of an individual or dummy company. It also asserts that so-called business methods alone — broad descriptions of ideas, without technical specifics — should not be patentable.
This is a brave move by IBM. Especially as patents can take several years from filing to acceptance - and the very act of filing gives competitors some heads-up info.
Fair disclosure: I own shares in IBM. My great grandfather sold steel to Thomas Watson in the 1930s, in exchange for shares.