PatPending writes "American companies General Electric, IBM, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard have joined with the New York Law School and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to inaugarate a new system of peer review for software patents. The four companies, plus Red Hat, the world's biggest listed open source software business, are the lead sponsors behind the Community Patent Review project. The one-year pilot program will begin in early 2007 and focus on published but not-yet-granted patent applications relating to computer software. Scientists and engineers will be able to submit prior art to patent examiners at the USPTO using an online system. All Community Patent review project documents will be available on the internet for public comment. 'High-quality patents increase certainty around intellectual property rights, reducing contention and freeing resources to focus on innovation,' said David Kappos, vice president of IP law at IBM."