There is little doubt that patents are driving innovation. However, those same patents can hinder the progress if applied incorrectly. There are some huge issues with the patent system in the United States right now, resulting in increase in lawsuits and huge backlogs and delays. Many feel (including yours truly) that with all the new highly technical fields out there, the system needs to be reevaluated. Well, the change might be coming. According to Economist, The United States Patent and Trademark Office is looking into going social.
Remember the whole “wisdom of the crowd” idea behind websites like digg? USPTO is trying to do the same with patent examination by opening the process up to online collaboration. The project is called Peer to Patent and they are starting with 250 patent applications in the technology sector.
Patent examination process is a tedious work and requires a lot of research on the part of a single examiner. The results often leave more to be desired with patents granted for ideas that are not novel or are painfully obvious. And with so much innovation in the software and Internet areas, patent examiners simply cannot keep up.
That’s where the idea of peer review comes in. By having more people participating in the review process (many specializing in those very fields), the research becomes easier and the USPTO can make a more informed decision. Economist writes:
Peer to Patent builds on…the notion that practitioners and researchers within a particular field collectively have all the relevant prior art at their fingertips already. All the patent office needs to do, therefore, is to get that community to tell it what it already knows.
So if you are one of those people constantly complaining about the patent system, here is your chance to do something about it. Sign up process is quick and easy and you can get started collaborating on pending patents right away.
So what are your thoughts on collaborative patent examination? We’ve seen some drawbacks to the social nature of sites like digg (remember digg revolt?). Could this system give start to a whole new set of problems, like biased patent reviews by competitors?