Patent Monkey: Patent Applications Meet Social Review

Highlighted yesterday in the Washington Post, as well as covered more extensively by IP blogger Dennis Crouch at Patently-O, is the forthcoming new prototype of an open patent review process for patent applications.

To build a sustainable solution for the growing web/tech community’s patent concerns, Beth Noveck and the NY Law School’s Do-Tank created the Peer-to-Patent Project as an answer.

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In Ms. Noveck’s white paper, she noted a driving reason for their solution to the patent system’s current problems:

Unlike other proposals for ex post patent reform, open review addresses the core problem of information deficit that cannot be solved by the courts. It requires no statutory change to try, and minimal [effort] to implement.

The premise, and a popular one amongst top tech firms, is that patents get through a system that doesn’t do enough to consider non-patent information during review by the examiner. The Peer Review process is attempting to inject more outside information into the review.

What will be interesting to see is the methods the network employs to build credibility amongst contributors. Peer-to-Patent envisions rewarding strong contribution using “gold stars” as identified by USPTO examiners as well as a way for peers to vote up the topics that the examiner should consider. Ms. Noveck also notes that the system will need to adapt to find the right model over time in working with the USPTO. Sounds a bit like a start up.

Is there a downside? If the patent system is set to reward innovation, then a review from experts highlighting prior art where it exists ensures that a novel idea has one more check point for examiners prior to issuance. Given there isn’t a significant hurdle to be a reviewer (and it doesn’t appear that is the case from their FAQ’s), then many people will see many patent applications providing commentary as needed. Slashdotters have been doing a similar process for years with less motivation than actually submitting information that could sway the issuance of a patent. Additionally, the patent examiner isn’t required to use the information, but receiving high quality results early on would make it hard not to be considered an added resource for time-strapped examiners.

On March 12th, you’ll be able learn more about how to sign up and become a Peer Reviewer. Check in at the Peer to Patent: Community Patent site for updates.