I don’t know what it is about wikis but there seems to be a wikification of the patent world. After the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office put out a draft Five Year Strategic Plan outlining their intention to develop a “peer review mechanism” that would enlist volunteers from the public to weigh in on applications, there seems to be a lot of response from the community at large. I’ve been sent info on three new sites in just the past week.

An early adopter is WikiPatents.com. Anyone can join the WikiPatents Community for free and voice concerns, praise, comments, and opinions on any issued patent. The WikiPatents Community was established to allow the community to give feedback on patents (and eventually applications) to ostensibly improve patent quality. By adding and voting on overlooked prior art and submitting public comments on the merits of issued patents, the WikiPatents Community will (theoretically) provides a resource to patent Examiners reviewing related pending applications.

[*Note: As reported by Greg Aharonian’s Internet Patent News Service, Business Week’s Lorraine Woellert has reported that the PTO told its examiners that they could no longer use the controversial online encyclopedia as an accepted source of information.]

Just as eager as the USPTO is to develop a “peer review mechanism” that would enlist volunteers from the public and ease the burden on its own staff, the public is anxious to serve. I have received notice of several other services. One service, Patent Debate, is offered by IP.com.

Patent Debate is described as “a powerful intellectual property tool to pioneer the battle against overly broad patents.” The idea being that anyone who is interested in the outcome of a particular patent application can publicly voice their objection since Patent Debate allows users to freely search, view, and post commentary on any pending U.S. patent application. IP.com already maintains a Prior Art Database for use by companies to publish their technical disclosures (defensive publications) in a searchable database.

Besides at least one other beta project we know of, there is also Patent Quality Index, which seems blank right now, and the Community Patent Project, which is a New York Law School venture backed by IBM, Red Hat, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard. That project, scheduled for a pilot rollout in January 2007, will allow the public to comment on patent applications and rank one anothers’ comments for quality. The Community Patent Project tries to provide an online system for peer review of patents by a network of experts, which can advise the Patent Office on prior art as well as to assist with patentability determinations.

It claims that by using social software, such as social reputation, collaborative filtering and information visualization tools, we can apply the “wisdom of the crowd” – or, more accurately the wisdom of the experts – to complex social and scientific problems. Apparently, though, they don’t like to be called a wiki declaring that “the technology we will use — and which we are in the process of designing and building with public input — is not a wiki. It is not wikipedia for patents. It is a peer review system that is specially designed with a knowledge and understanding of patent law and practice.” Uhhmm…whatever.

How all of these patent review/comment sites will figure into the patent examination process remains foggy at best. Right now, patent law gives those involved in the patent process a “duty of candor” to share information about prior art, but only if they know about it. Although there’s no obligation to affirmatively go out and search for prior art now, there is concern about such proposals by the USPTO like the one limiting submissions to 20 references and, for additional references, making the applicants point out what part of the document makes it important, to identify specific claims to which a document applies, to clarify how a document adds new information not already considered by the examiner, or explain why the claims are patentable in light of the information provided.

In case you just can’t get enough wiki, these sites allow for easy collaboration: Jot, Wetpaint, PBwiki, Wikispaces, Wiki.com and Wikia.

We think the best idea lately is IP Law in Poetry. Yehuda has rendered both the USC Copyright and USC Patent codes into poetic form for easier (if slightly less accurate) reading.

  Print This Post Print This Post  

Comments are closed.