Intellectual property lawyers are praising a recent decision by IBM Corp. to publish its patents on the Web as an important first step in reforming the patent process and reducing litigation.

IBM, which has collected the most U.S. patents in recent years and earns $1 billion annually from intellectual property, plans to make all of its patent applications public on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site 18 months after filing. It also intends to clearly register all patents and applications in the company name.

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