By Dennis Crouch
Can you Step Up? Patent attorneys often remember Judge Rich and his important contribution to the development of U.S. patent law. One important element of Judge Rich’s legacy is that he was just one person acting on his own, but acting with vigor, persistence, and honor. Even in trillion dollar industries, it is still the passion of individuals who drive change. The White House is looking for some such individuals to join its Presidential Innovation Fellowship. The fellowship program is administered through the office of the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Todd Park. It is Park’s office that is also leading the charge in patent reform initiatives.
Now in its third round, the program is now looking for an Innovation Fellow to work with “Crowdsourcing to Improve Government.” From the Patent side, one White House idea is “Using the Crowd to Improve Patent Quality.”
To help ensure that U.S. patents are of the highest quality, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is launching a new initiative focused on expanding ways for companies, experts, and the general public to help patent examiners, holders, and applicants find “prior art”—that is, the technical information patent examiners need to make a determination of whether an invention is truly novel or “patent-worthy.” This effort will focus on driving valuable contributions to the patent process and enhancing patent quality—strengthening a process that is vital to innovation and economic growth.
More Prior Art and More Accessible Prior Art: The general thrust of this project is to figure out how to ensure that the best prior art is truly available to patent examiners. The approach has several potential prongs. We are already familiar with the ongoing application-specific prior art submissions by third parties. Some work needs to be done on that program to continue to improve its effectiveness. In addition, the government is looking for new streams of prior art coming from industry leaders such as IBM, Microsoft, Cisco, and others that can go to examiners in a form that is easily searchable. Having quality prior art is obviously critical. However, in my mind, we still have a very long way to go in terms of helping examiners find the best prior art from the millions of potential references at their fingertips. One idea that I have is that each office action rejection that is issued by an examiner could be used to automatically annotate the associated prior art references in a way that facilitates future searches by other examiners. In turn, that result may also serve as a valuable mechanism for making use of the high level knowledge held by the 9,000 USPTO examiners.
Applications will be accepted through April 7, 2014, and can be found here: https://gsafas.secure.force.com/apply