Better Information for Better Patents

Launch Peer-to-Patent

The Challenge

The patent system is designed to promote innovation by granting limited rights to inventors. An important aspect of granting patents is making sure the most relevant prior art is considered. In some areas – (e.g., computer software and business method innovation) technologies are advancing quite rapidly and it is important that the United States Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) uncover all of the most relevant prior art – particularly that found outside of traditional patent and non-patent literature.

Potential Solution

Peer-to-Patent allows members of the public to pool their knowledge and locate potential prior art to share with the examiner and inventor. The United States Patent and Trademark Office is running a two-year pilot program to see if peer review can support, in a cost effective manner, timely, accurate decisions about what inventions merit a U.S. patent.

Patent applicants volunteer their applications for peer review. Opening up the review of patent applications allows the public to share in the examination process to help identify the best prior art. The peer-to-patent system creates a framework which makes use of an on-line system to merge the technologies of peer-to-peer communications, networking, and collaborative filtering to offer expertise in identifying relevant literature, which informs both patent applicants and the USPTO’s patent examiners.

Potential Benefits

  • Applicants – Applicants receive feedback from knowledgeable peers on prior art pertinent to their published application for a patent.
  • Competitors – The pre-grant publication of the volunteered application for patent combined with the peer submissions allow industry peers to see boundaries set by previously published inventions early in the process and potentially avoid conflicts.
  • The USPTO – Peer review may uncover prior art that might not otherwise be located.
  • The Public – Peer review gives more confidence that all technical teachings relevant to the examination process were considered.
  • The Patent System – Litigation and costs associated with uncertainty over the scope of patent rights may be reduced as interested parties have an opportunity to weigh in at the beginning of the patent review process.

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