Salon has a good article looking at whatever happened to BountyQuest - that ultra-hyped online service that was supposed to be used to debunk patents by showing prior art. It seems that the folks behind BountyQuest didn't actually do much research into the whole "prior art" business before starting the company. There are people out there who search for prior art. They're experienced at it (and good at it) and they charge a lot less than a BountyQuest contest. So, that makes it a tough market. Combine that with the fact that BountyQuest never found the "big name" patent they could destroy and it seems like a pretty useless service. There were also some accusations that it was just a publicity stunt by Amazon to take some of the pressure off of them for their one-click patent. The fact is that patent law is screwed up in a lot of ways. BountyQuest doesn't seem like a very effective way of fixing it. Hopefully, Lawrence Lessig's Creative Commons turns out to be a bit more on the right track.
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