USPTO’s Patent Peer Review Pilot Project

Patent peer review is coming!  Later this week, the PTO will announce its pre-grant Patent Peer Review Pilot Project. (Announcement May 12, 9:00am-noon; register here.). 

The USPTO has created a partnership with academia and the private sector to launch an online, peer review pilot project that seeks to ensure that patent examiners will have improved access to all available prior art during the patent examination process.

The peer-review system is not intended to replace patent examiners — what the system will do is allow the public to review pending patent applications and provide relevant prior art.  Using a ranking system (like slashdot), the public will essentially vote to determine which prior art references are the most relevant. The general idea is to help make sure that the best prior art is seen by the patent examiner.

The project is the brain-child of Professor Noveck at NYLS, but IBM and other tech companies have signed-on with their support. The pilot will primarily focus on “technology” patents rather than pharmaceuticals, and will only review applications after receiving inventor permission.

The pilot will not require a rule change because the references will be sent to the examiner without comment — although the examiner could potentially read the comments on the peer review website. A Joke

Why volunteer your patent for review: (1)  This could make your patent very strong it makes it through peer review; (2) The pilot will be getting lots of press — publicity for your inventions; (3) PTO will not want to delay examination of the application because it is in the public eye; (4) There is a potential that volunteering for the peer review could serve essentially as a “petition to make special.”

This project is still being developed, so comments at this stage may have a significant impact.

Notes:

6 thoughts on “USPTO’s Patent Peer Review Pilot Project

  1. We’re running a conference today at Stanford to discuss the feasibility of this proposal with the PTO in advance of the launch.

  2. Sounds like Tom Sawyer (getting his friends to paint the fence because it is so much fun).

    Clearly the USPTO has been publicly embarassed by the RIM (Blackberry)litigation. That’s why this program is focusing on “technology”.

    I can’t understand why the USPTO think this will make the examiner speed up prosecution, unless (1) they assume that USPTO examiners have any shame about working slowly or (2) they are counting on the public to provide the most relevant prior art so the examiner can speed up prosecution by not spending time on a thorough search.

    The USPTO could have enacted an “opposition” proceeding like Europe, but that would involve changing the law and more work for USPTO.

    Consistant with the lazy Tom Sawyer theory.

  3. It’s certainly a start, but has the possibility of creating a lopsided patent evaluation system. Considering that: (1) likely only examiners in certain fields will have access to public resources/comments, (2) the patent review system may be more applicable and accessible to some fields than others, and (3) the review system requires the inventor(s)’s permission, it would behoove the USPTO to account for these deficiencies during the system’s implementation.

  4. As an examiner this sounds great but what if some troll decides to cite hundreds of pieces of art? Despite the ranking, the examiner will be required to look at all the art. Examiners can’t afford to make a mistake and ignoring something is one such way to make one.

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