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Friday, 17 July 2009

Peer Review of Patents

An interesting idea has taken place in the US. Imagine what would happen if your patents were examined by members of the patent community? Imagine what time would be saved in terms of search for prior art? That would indeed save the patent examiners a lot of time. In terms of return on investment, those applicants whose patents are submitted for evaluation will either (1) obtain the registration sooner, or (2) obtain the rejection sooner. Not all bad news is bad, and obtaining a rejection sooner (than later) will enable the applicant to (a) appeal against the rejection, (b) cut losses, and perhaps (c) redesign the invention in light of the grounds stated in the rejection so that it is patentable. The plus point is that everybody gets the good news sooner rather than later.

From the official website, the Peer to Patent Programme is as follows:

On June 15, 2007, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) opened the patent examination process for online public participation for the first time. With the consent of the inventor, the Peer-to-Patent: Community Patent Review pilot, developed by the New York Law School Institute for Information Law and Policy in cooperation with the USPTO, enables the public to submit prior art and commentary relevant to the claims of pending patent applications in Computer Architecture, Software, and Information Security (TC2100). This historic initiative connects an open network of community input to the legal decision-making process.

A summary of the first year's results is available in our Anniversary Report, available for download at

UPDATE: The USPTO announced the extension of Peer-to-Patent on July 17, 2008. The program will now run through June 15, 2009. In addition, eligible applications have been expanded to include Technology Center 3600 (Class 705). Up to 400 applications will be reviewed.

Peer-to-Patent involves 1) review and discussion of posted patent applications, 2) research to locate prior art references 3) uploading prior art references relevant to the claims, 4) annotating and evaluating submitted prior art, and 5) top ten references, along with commentary, forwarded to the USPTO. The goal of this pilot is to prove that organized public participation can improve the quality of issued patents.

Anyone in the public can participate as a reviewer, a patent application facilitator, and by sharing information about the pilot with others. Inventors can submit a qualified patent application for open review. Public participation is crucial to demonstrating the value of openness and making the case for greater USPTO accountability to the technical community. A successful pilot will also make a case for expanding to other subject matter.

Unfortunately the time for participation in this project is past. Perhaps it will be extended.

Perhaps Malaysia would do well to make data pertaining to patent applications (both being processed and granted) online. As it is, the PANTAS web portal is a window of opportunity that can be expanded upon -- to extend into a full featured search engine for patents / trademarks. However, that day isn't likely to come soon. It seems likely that MyIPO is going to stick with the present pay-per-view operating model. That isn't likely to help the development of the local patent-ing scene.

Incidentally, I stumbled across the Peer to Patent project while reading an article on NY Times: Obama, inviting ideas online, finds a few on the fringe. Not that it's groundbreaking, but it's refreshing to see a President open himself up to the citizens and their discussions.
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