Peer-to-Patent
April 29th, 2008

Thanks to Beth Noveck for the tip!

The trend of applying peer-to-peer (….or crowdsourcing?) to just about everything from file sharing to distributed computing has descended upon an exciting frontier: patents. As people write an escalating volume of software programs, and many don’t apply for patents, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) increasingly lacks the capacity to evaluate patent applications in light of what’s already in the public domain, referred to as prior art. For this reason, the USPTO has partnered with New York Law School’s Institute for Information Law to develop Peer-to-Patent, a new initiative enabling the public to evaluate computer and software-related patent applications. This way, it can enlist the public’s knowledge of prior art – considerably more than the USPTO has on its own – in its mandate to issue and reject patents. Specifically, when evaluating a patent application, users can submit prior art, annotate the prior art submitted by others, vote on the relevance of public submissions, and suggest fruitful research avenues to the USPTO. Peer-to-Patent is significant not only because it enables the public to participate in the patenting process, but because it exhibits the use of a peer-to-peer model by a government institution for purposes of engaging the public in its mandate. And a smart mob of patent application evaluators could certainly help prevent unnecessary patents from issuing, and sanction worthy ones.


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