Chris Wong, project manager of Peer to Patent Project: Community Review, says the system must be made compulsory if it is to work. Currently the pilot project is only voluntary. The Peer to Patent Project allows people (theoretically) to send publications and materials to the US Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO) that might be material to proving an invention is not new.

The public can only submit material in relation to patent applications that have opted into the system, though. The USPTO said it will not announce until the end of the pilot whether or not the scheme will ever be compulsory. John Doll, commissioner for patents at the USPTO, said it had not made up its mind whether to force applicants to use the system once the pilot is finished.

In an American Idol like fashion, the system picks the 10 most voted for submissions and sends those and their associated comments to the patent examiner after four months. The examiner can then use or ignore the information. Also, anyone in the public can participate as a reviewer or a patent application facilitator meaning that everyone is suddenly “qualified” as an expert.

There is definitely momentum going on that our patent system, as it currently exists, is somehow broken and does not work — although that usually depends on whether or not they’ve been sued as to which side of the fence they’re on. Critics point to the fact that third party prior art submissions are currently restricted to certain limited uses.

Then the question is, can Joan Q. Public really make the system better or does such a system just cause an undue burden on the applicant who will then have to respond to the Top 10 list, no matter how inane the connection with the present invention.

Some wonder if such a “wisdom of the crowd” kind of approach is, like digg, a bad idea for certain items. As IPBiz puts it: Stupidity, not intelligence, can reign supreme in this format, and voting, if done by the uninformed, does not remedy the problem.

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  1. There is precedent for peer review, particularly in the publication of scientific literature. I believe that the patent process may benefit from anonymous input from ‘qualified’ individuals, in much the same way scientific achievement (in the form of publications) is scrutinized (sometimes severely) prior to being made public information. This process relies on the reviewer’s expertise and may be why the voting process, as described, is implemented to remove the chaff from the wheat.

  2. […] USPTO is still trying to push its Peer Review Pilot project that gives so-called technical experts in computer technology the opportunity to submit […]