According to the NY Times:
The United States Patent and Trademark Office plans to announce today that it will cooperate with open-source software developers on three initiatives that it says will improve the quality of software patents. … Two of the initiatives would rely on recently developed Internet technologies. An open patent review program would set up a system on the patent office Web site where visitors could submit search criteria and subscribe to electronic alerts about patent applications in specific areas. The third initiative is focused on the creation of a patent quality index that would serve as a tool for patent applicants to use in writing their applications.