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September 5, 2006

Patent Office to Get Help from Peer Review Patent Sites

There seems to be some confusion out there about the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reaching out to the community for help with patent examinations.  As with anything that involves technology, the amount of information to review and analyze is vast compared to what it was even 20 years ago.  That has overwhelmed the Patent Office in an era where companies  create vast patent libraries as a revenue stream as much as a statement of intellectual property.  Some of these are major technology corporations such as Microsoft and IBM.  Other entities are holding companies who register, buy, or license patents with the idea of litigating the unwary into huge settlements.  Research In Motion was on the receiving end of one of those suits, but ran out of legal options before the accelerated Patent Office review could nullify the questionable patents as a final decision.

Enter the Community Patent Project, which is sponsored by HP, IBM, Microsoft, and Red Hat. which aims to design and pilot an online system of peer review of patents.  Conceivably, through peer review, extra eyes and experience could point out prior art or other factors that affect the patent application.  More information is at http://dotank.nyls.edu/communitypatent/.

The confusion comes from a series or articles that describe this project as a wiki.  That's not so according to the Peer to Patent web site.  There is another site, however, that also invites community review of patents and offers researchers and others PDF copies of patents and patent applications.  That is WikiPatents.com.  The community can use the wiki format to form a collective view of a particular patent.  Whether that view is relevant to the application process or litigation remains to be seen.  Nonetheless, those with expertise in particular areas of science and technology are available to comment upon suspect patents which could affect the grant process. 

The press release from WikiPatents.com explains the site in some detail:

Announcing... WikiPatents.com - Community Patent Review!  WikiPatents recently became the first and only web site to enable organized public comment on issued patents and, soon, pending patent applications.  WikiPatents was developed to strengthen the U.S. patent system by providing increased visibility into the legal strength, technical merits, and market aspects of each patent through public comment.  Through our combined support and participation, WikiPatents will become an indispensable resource to increase certainty for patent Examiners, law firms, future litigants, licensees, potential investors, inventors, and patent owners.

The WikiPatents Community was established largely in response to the USPTO's recent focus on improving patent quality.  "The USPTO clearly has a responsibility to do everything it can to improve America's patent system. That is why we are undertaking this collaborative approach – putting forth quality and efficiency proposals for the patent community to give us feedback," said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property Jon Dudas. "Applicants and the public deserve certainty. This focus on quality of applications and closure of the examination process will provide more certainty.  Everyone agrees that better quality input will result in a better quality end product." (See http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/speeches/06-26.htm )  By adding and voting on overlooked prior art and submitting public comments on the merits of issued patents, the WikiPatents Community provides an invaluable resource to patent Examiners reviewing related pending applications.

Even if this has no effect on the Patent Office directly, it could help lawyers who are trying to litigate away infringement claims.  There's nothing wrong with multiple sets of eyes analyzing the viability of claims.  Both sites should be welcome in that regard.

September 5, 2006 | Permalink

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