Sunday, August 20, 2006

More on peer review of patents

Nicholas Varchaver of Fortune writes: -- The problem: an epidemic of shoddy patents.

The solution: Wikipedia? [i.e., peer to patent]

That's the basic concept behind a pilot program sponsored by IBM and other companies, which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office appears poised to green-light. The project would apply an advisory version of the wiki approach to the patent-approval process.

The issue is that patent applications have tripled in the past two decades, leaving examiners only 20 hours on average to comb through a complex application, research past inventions, and decide whether a patent should be granted. [IPBiz query: how long has the 20 hour amount been in effect? Longer than the last 20 years?]

As a result, critics contend, quality has declined and lucrative patents have been granted for ideas that weren't actually new.

Varchaver did not mention the failure of BountyQuest.

The article notes: Patent examiners will be given only the ten highest-rated pieces of input, and attempts to sabotage a competitor's application by submitting phony material should theoretically be avoided.

IPBiz notes: Sorry dudes, but if you think the "highest rated" reviews on are the best reviews, you really are clueless. Further, the mutual back-scratching found in scientific citations illustrates how a cluster of common-thinkers (possibly competitors) could get into the ten highest rated pieces of input.

Varchaver quotes John Doll:

Says the commissioner for patents, John Doll: "We're just trying to put the finishing touches on the details before we roll it out to the [head of the Patent and Trademark Office] and get the final approval to move ahead."

Recall that Science quoted John Doll in the July 28 issue on another proposal to enhance quality of patents, that of limiting continuing applications. In fact, the quote of Doll was the only news in that article which appeared in the "news of the week" section in Science.

Thus, the USPTO is getting a lot of publicity on its efforts to place "quality" in patents.


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