USPTO Opens Up to Online Peer Reviewing for Patent Applications

Mon, 5 Mar 2007 14:21:00 EST

New York Law School Professor Beth Noveck calls the USPTO's pilot project "revolutionary." It allows patent applications to be posted to the internet and then invites user commentary grounded in a ratings based community system designed to push the most respected posts to the top. The whole system is described as resembling the one used by Wikipedia, though the applications themselves are not editable. So far, companies volunteering to have their patent applications reviewed online include IBM, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, and Intel.

"Most federal agencies invite interested parties to weigh in on proceedings, and even the patent office allows some public comment, but never to the degree now suggested.

Until now, patent examiners rarely sought outside opinions, instead relying on scientific writings and archived records of previous patents. For security reasons -- in particular, out of concern that examiners could inadvertently reveal proprietary information if their online searches were tracked -- patent officials have at times even been barred from using the Internet for research.


The new patent system will try to help separate experts from posers by offering extensive details about the people sending information to the site. To help others evaluate the quality of this information, called prior art, each posting will include several measures gauging the quality of his other contributions to the site. Patent examiners, for instance, will award 'gold stars' to people who previously submitted the most useful information for judging earlier applications, Noveck said.

Ultimately, those registered to participate in this online forum will vote on all the nominated information, and the top 10 items will be passed on to the examiner, who will serve as the final arbiter on whether to award a patent."

Read more at The Washington Post

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