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IBM expands free access to patents

Health care, education groups can use patents in open-software standards for Web services, e-forms and open document formats.

IBM is giving the health care and education industries free access to its patent portfolio, the company said Monday.

Organizations within these fields can tap IBM's patents for development and use within certain open-software standards for Web services, electronic forms and open document formats. The effort expands IBM's previous moves to open a portion of its patent pool to the open-source community.

"Many industries are transforming, using open software standards to create a powerful platform for innovation and industry growth. Our initiative can help do the same for the worldwide health care industry," Neil de Crescenzo, IBM global health care vice president, said in a statement.

IBM's patents could be used to help standardize electronic health-record networks, the company said. In emergency rooms, for example, IBM patents could help create technology to speed the prioritization and authorization process in requesting patient information via Web services applications.

Big Blue is also giving free access to patents for help in developing standards-based applications in the education arena. For example, IBM's patents could be applied toward technology that lets students living in remote areas access teachers, lesson plans and other resources.

IBM has roughly 40,000 patents worldwide, 10,000 of which are software related. And IBM has historically held the lead among tech companies in the number of patents won on an annual basis.