Concerns have been expressed about the quality of patents that are being issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), particularly in areas of art that have entered the patent system more recently, such as software, e-commerce, and business methods. The USPTO recognizes these concerns and has undertaken to test a number of new initiatives to improve patent quality. One of these initiatives is the Peer-to-Patent project run by the Center for Patent Innovations at New York Law School.
Peer-to-Patent seeks to improve the quantity and quality of prior art available to patent examiners by allowing members of the general public to help identify that art. Peer-to-Patent harnesses social reputation and collaborative filtering technology to create a peer review system of scientific and technical experts assessing and opining on innovation. By using social software, Peer-to-Patent applies the “wisdom of the crowd”—or, more accurately the wisdom of the experts—to complex social and scientific problems and bring more expertise to bear. At the conclusion of the peer review period, prior art (published information related to the claimed invention such as previously issued patents, published patent applications, journal articles, and other documentation) are forwarded to the USPTO for use by the examiner.
An initial pilot of Peer-to-Patent was jointly announced by the USPTO and New York Law School in June 2007. During the first year of the pilot, Peer-to-Patent established that such a peer review system could work and work effectively at small scale. In July 2008 the pilot program was extended for a second year, during which Peer-to-Patent seeks to establish that the program has the ability to scale to larger volumes while remaining effective. You can find more information about the Peer-to-Patent project at www.peertopatent.org or by visiting http://dotank.nyls.edu/communitypatent.