Peer-to-Patent Pilot Releases Report Demonstrating Success of Public Participation in Patent Process

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Peer-to-Patent, the groundbreaking Web-based governmental "social networking" project, has released a report on the results of its one-year pilot. Peer-to-Patent seeks to improve patent quality by connecting the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to an open network of scientific and technical experts to enhance the patent examination process.

As the first example of harnessing public knowledge to improve a government process, the first year of Peer-to-Patent was an unquestioned success

Peer-to-Patent, the groundbreaking Web-based governmental "social networking" project, has released a report on the results of its one-year pilot. Peer-to-Patent seeks to improve patent quality by connecting the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to an open network of scientific and technical experts to enhance the patent examination process.

Launched on June 15, 2007 by New York Law School Professor Beth Noveck together with a network of corporate and academic collaborators and in cooperation with the USPTO, Peer-to-Patent is the first social networking project with a direct link to decision-making by the federal government. Under traditional practices, USPTO patent examiners bear the sole burden of identifying and relating information pertinent to patent applications. Under Peer-to-Patent, expert volunteers were permitted to assist in these efforts at the http://www.peertopatent.org Web site.

With the consent of participating inventors, patent applications were posted to the Peer-to-Patent site where the expert reviewers discussed the applications and submitted bibliographic information, known as prior art, relevant to determining if an invention was new and non-obvious, as the law requires to obtain a patent. At the conclusion of the review period, this prior art was forwarded to the USPTO patent examiner for consideration and use in their further search efforts.

Major companies such as IBM, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, Intel, and GE, companies whose patent portfolios account for nearly one-third of the patents issued to the top 30 U.S. patent holders in 2007, all submitted patent applications to the Peer-to-Patent process. Other patent applications were submitted by Red Hat, Cisco, and Yahoo!, as well as smaller firms.

Data from the first year of the Peer-to-Patent pilot shows that an open network of reviewers can improve the quality of information available to patent examiners and that such citizen-reviewers are capable of producing information relevant to the patent examination process and are willing to volunteer time. Initial results based on a survey of patent examiners from the USPTO suggest that information provided by the public is beneficial to the examination process.

Findings from the first-year report include:

  •     Peer-to-Patent attracted more than 2,000 peer reviewers.
  •     The first 23 office actions issued during the pilot phase showed use of Peer-to-Patent submitted prior art in nine rejections
  •     On average, citizen-reviewers contributed 6 hours reviewing each patent application in the pilot
  •     Although USPTO rules permit third-party prior art submissions on pending applications, the average number of prior art submissions on Peer-to-Patent applications was 2,000 times that of standard rule-based submissions.
  •     Ninety-two percent of patent examiners surveyed said they would welcome examining another application with public participation, while 73% of participating examiners want to see Peer-to-Patent implemented as a regular office practice.
  •     21% of participating examiners stated that prior art submitted by the Peer-to-Patent community was "inaccessible" directly to USPTO examiners.
  •     Prior art submissions by Peer-to-Patent reviewers were four times as likely to include non-patent literature (any document that is not a patent, including Web sites, journals, textbooks, and databases) as compared to prior art submissions by applicants.

"As the first example of harnessing public knowledge to improve a government process, the first year of Peer-to-Patent was an unquestioned success," Noveck said. She added: "While the impact of this project on patent quality will take longer to assess, the early indications are certainly promising."

To view the Peer-to-Patent report in its entirety, visit: http://dotank.nyls.edu/communitypatent/P2Panniversaryreport.pdf.

About Peer-to-Patent:
Peer-to-Patent is an initiative of New York Law School's Institute for Information Law and Policy in cooperation with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The Peer-to-Patent software and pilot program were developed with the sponsorship of CA, GE, HP, IBM, Intellectual Ventures, the MacArthur Foundation, Microsoft, Omidyar Network, and Red Hat. Visit http://www.peertopatent.org for more information.

About New York Law School:
Founded in 1891, New York Law School is an independent law school located in lower Manhattan near the city's centers of law, government, and finance. New York Law School's renowned faculty of prolific scholars has built the School's strength in such areas as constitutional law, civil and human rights, labor and employment law, media and information law, urban legal studies, international and comparative law, and a number of interdisciplinary fields. The School is noted for its eight academic centers: Center for International Law, Center for New York City Law, Center for Professional Values and Practice, Center for Real Estate Studies, Center on Business Law & Policy, Center on Financial Services Law, Institute for Information Law & Policy, and Justice Action Center. New York Law School has more than 13,000 graduates and enrolls some 1,500 students in its full- and part-time J.D. program and its Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Taxation program. http://www.nyls.edu

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