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Internet Review for Patents Draws Near

Alan Sipress

With the agency responsible for issuing patents now planning to throw open its review process to the Internet, the latest word is that this wiki-type experiment is expected to start around June 1.

New York Law School Professor Beth Simone Noveck, who heads a team designing the pilot project, outlined the schedule for a lunchtime seminar today on Capitol Hill. She also previewed the Web site that members of the public can use to submit information they believe is relevant to evaluating whether inventions deserve a patent or not. The site itself will enter beta testing in early April, she said.

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington think tank that hosted the session, said Noveck's screenshots would be posted shortly on its own Web site.

Under the pilot project, individuals and companies requesting patents can volunteer to have the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office post their applications on the Internet for public input. Anyone who may have technical material related to the application, for instance journal articles, prior patents and software code, can upload these on to the site along with an explanation about why this information is relevant. Participants will vote on a top-ten list of submissions to forward to the patent office examiners, who can then use the material in evaluating the applications.

The project will start with 250 applications for software patents. Noveck and her team have already lined up some of the country's most prominent tech companies, including Microsoft and IBM, to volunteer their applications. But, she added, the initiative also includes an incentive that could make it appealing to small entrepreneurs: a guarantee that their applications will jump to the front of the queue for consideration. Now, the average waiting time for a software or computer-related patent is four years.

The U.S. patent office is not alone in opening its long secretive deliberations to the Internet. Just back from London, Noveck said the United Kingdom's patent office is moving ahead with a similar "peer-to-patent" review process.

By Alan Sipress  |  March 26, 2007; 4:54 PM ET  | Category:  Alan Sipress
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I guess it*s worth trying if software patents take 4 years, but I don*t see how it can do anything but further confuse the poor beleagered patent examiners. Maybe they will decide that most of the applications should be rejected because most of the art I've seen patented in the area of 3D graphics can be described by the words *prior* or *obvious*.

Posted by: Bill Mosby | March 26, 2007 8:53 PM

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