The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has launched Peer-to-Patent, an initiative created in cooperation with New York Law School's Institute for Information Law and Policy. This pilot program to test the value of public participation in the patent examination process will run for one year.
The goal of opening up the examination process for public participation is to enable better decision making by the patent examiner and improve patent quality. At present, examiners must assess the validity of a patent application without public input. By reviewing applications and submitting relevant prior art and/or commentary, the public can help get information about publications or fruitful avenues for research to the Patent Office that may otherwise not be accessible.
The USPTO has committed to provide feedback on the usefulness of public submissions. The results of the pilot will be compiled by the USPTO and New York Law School. CA, GE, HP, IBM, Intel, International Characters, Intellectual Ventures, Microsoft, Oracle, Out of the Box Computing, Red Hat, Sun Microsystems, and Yahoo! have requested to participate in the pilot. Five applications (from HP, IBM, Intel, and Red Hat) are currently available for public review on the Peer-to-Patent website and the public has already begun to review and comment.
Peer-to-Patent organizers will present the project and answer questions at the Peer-to-Patent auditorium on New York Law School's Democracy Island, Second Life, on Monday, June 18 at 12pm PST (3pm EST). Patent applicants with computer software patent applications to be published during the coming year may apply to join the pilot by completing a form available from the USPTO. Applications accepted to the pilot will be advanced out of turn and reviewed at no charge within one year, instead of the average four-year waiting period. Applicants can also request early publication without payment of an early publication fee.
The Peer-to-Patent program enables review and discussion of posted patent applications; sharing of research to locate references to relevant earlier publications; submission of these prior art references with an explanation of relevance; annotating and evaluating submitted prior art; winnowing of top ten prior art references, which will be forwarded to the USPTO; patent education to inform public participation; and forwarding of public submissions directly to the USPTO for consideration.
The Peer-to-Patent software and pilot program were developed and sponsored by CA, GE, HP, IBM, Intellectual Ventures, the MacArthur Foundation, Microsoft, Omidyar Network, and Red Hat.