The world of software patents is a strange, confusing, inefficient place. There's a pretty serious question as to whether or not software patents should really even exist. Now, the USPTO is making moves to at least step in a better direction by calling out to software developers anywhere and everywhere for advice on fixing the whole thing up.
The call for advice will take the form of two round table events in Februrary, one in Silicon Valley, the other in New York City. Seats are limited but pretty much any developer can attend if they RSVP by email and include some credentials. The events will also be webcast, and any developers/spectators who can't/don't want to attend can also just send in written comments.
The USPTO is looking specifically for advice on "how to improve clarity of claim boundaries that define the scope of patent protection for claims that use functional language," but also stresses that "group consensus advice will not be sought." And it stands to reason they wouldn't be too keen on the idea of no software patents at all. Still, it's a good acknowledgement that the systems is a bit borked, and the USPTO seems to be making an effort to ask the right people for pointers. We'll just have to wait and see if anything good comes out of it. [USPTO via Groklaw]