Monday, March 05, 2007

Washington Post frontpages Peer to Patent on March 5, 2007

An article "Open Call From the Patent Office" appears on page A1 of the March 5, 2007 issue of the Washington Post.

The article by Alan Sipress states: The Patent and Trademark Office is starting a pilot project that will not only post patent applications on the Web and invite comments but also use a community rating system designed to push the most respected comments to the top of the file, for serious consideration by the agency's examiners. A first for the federal government, the system resembles the one used by Wikipedia, the popular user-created online encyclopedia.

Sipress notes of the burden on examiners: Last year, the agency's 4,000 examiners, headquartered in Alexandria, completed a record 332,000 applications. The tremendous workload has often left examiners with little time to conduct thorough reviews, according to sympathetic critics.

Sipress makes clear that the program is of limited scope: Brigid Quinn, a spokeswoman for the patent office, said the program will begin with about 250 applications from the realm of software design, where it is especially difficult for examiners to find related documentation. Unlike specialists in many other fields, software designers often forgo publishing their innovations in technical journals and elsewhere.

There is an acknowledgement of possible difficulties with the sources of external information: But this will suddenly make available reams of information, which could be from suspect sources, and so the program includes a "reputation system" for ranking the material and evaluating the expertise of those submitting it.(...)"I'm sure there will be a degree of gaming. There always is," Kappos said.
Maintaining a reliable Web-based reputation has become an increasingly pressing concern for Web companies as they seek to reassure users that they can trust the strangers they do business with online. So the designers of the new patent-review system consulted some of the Internet's leading experts on reputation, Noveck recounted. These included specialists from eBay and Rob Malda, aka CmdrTaco, the founder of the popular technology Web site

The issue of "gold stars" and voting comes up: Patent examiners, for instance, will award "gold stars" to people who previously submitted the most useful information for judging earlier applications, Noveck said. Ultimately, those registered to participate in this online forum will vote on all the nominated information, and the top 10 items will be passed on to the examiner, who will serve as the final arbiter on whether to award a patent. (...) "If voting is necessary, you'll have to have some rules about who gets to vote," said Paul Resnick, a professor of information at the University of Michigan.

There is a quote of relevance to the current discussion about secrecy at CIRM: "The idea is to make something as important as decision-making about innovation more transparent to the public and more accountable to the public," Noveck said.

For some previous discussions of Peer to Patent on IPBiz, see

And of course don't forget the remarks of the music critic of the Boston Globe on the work of Hatto:

in "Still Plagiarizing"


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