From May, the office will post applications online and open them up to public scrutiny, hoping to draw in thoughts and suggestions from people with expert backgrounds. The subsequent input will be rated and ranked, with the most popular comments playing a part in cementing final decisions.
USPTO director, John Dudas, said: ‘We're really excited about it. Community patent review gives us the ability to tap into the power of the Internet. We think we'll get better [prior art] submissions and, ultimately, stronger patents … Many in the private sector have told us there is a lot of expertise out there.’
The idea arose from an experimental peer review initiative begun two years ago by New York University Law School professor, Beth Noveck, in association with the USPTO and such notable software firms as IBM, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard.
Speaking to the Washington Post, professor Noveck described the pilot scheme as, ‘The first major change to our patent examination system since the 19th Century.’ Her enthusiasm was echoed by IBM vice president and assistant general counsel, David Kappos: ‘For the first time in history, it allows … examiners to open up their cubicles and get access to a whole world of technical experts.’
‘One of the core problems,’ said Noveck, ‘is that we have a patent system that can grant a 20-year monopoly based on closed databases. This is an opportunity to use the technology available for government to make more informed decisions.
‘The idea is to make something as important as decision-making about innovation more transparent … and more accountable to the public.’