Computer giant IBM says 500 of its software patents will be released into the open development community.
The move means developers will be able to use the technologies without paying for a licence from the company. IBM described the step as a "new era" in how it dealt with intellectual property and promised further patents would be made freely available. The patents include software for a range of practices, including text recognition and database management.
Traditional technology business policy is to amass patents and despite IBM's announcement the company continues to follow this route. IBM was granted 3,248 patents in 2004, more than any other firm in the US, the New York Times reports. For each of the past 12 years IBM has been granted more US patents than any other company. IBM has received 25,772 US patents in that period and reportedly has more than 40,000 current patents.
In a statement, Dr John E. Kelly, IBM senior vice president, Technology and Intellectual Property, said: "True innovation leadership is about more than just the numbers of patents granted. It's about innovating to benefit customers, partners and society.