UK May Test Wiki System For Patent Review; Why A Wiki? Don't Ask Questions

from the does-this-really-help? dept

While there were a lot of problems with the Gowers Report in the UK on intellectual property reform, there were some interesting suggestions. One was that the UK Patent Office should at least experiment with programs like those proposed in the US to make it easier for outsiders to provide patent examiners with prior art -- perhaps using wiki technology. It's not entirely clear why wiki technology makes sense here -- or is any better than just letting people submit and view examples of prior art (or claims of obviousness). If anything, it seems like people are just saying wiki technology, because that's what's popular. Still, it sounds like the UK Patent Office is open to trying the idea, which seems like it's at least a step in the right direction. However, as people point out in the article, it's really just a way to make a minor improvement to a very broken system that doesn't get at the core issues at all. People have to be very motivated to be watching all of those patents, and the problem doesn't come until much later usually, after the patents have been approved. Unfortunately, this is likely to just be a temporary bandaid, rather than anything that really helps the patent system improve.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    misanthropic humanist, Dec 15th, 2006 @ 8:56am

    publish don't patent

    It's not at all clear how a wiki type framework would help, you're right.
    I don't see much merit in it. In fact it seems like it will lead to all kinds of editing wars and attempts to rewrite the timeline it represents.

    The way things are going now perhaps it's time for most individual researchers and smaller companies to abandon the patent system now.

    The biggest requirement is really to preempt *anybody else* from having a patent, in which case the best course is simply to publish.

    Write up your idea, thoroughly and rigorously to the standards of a scientific paper or detailed patent and publish it to something like archive.org.

    While it means that anyone can use and develop that idea, it stops anybody from *preventing YOU* from exploiting your idea, which is what we now require patents to do.

    The whole system is through the looking glass now.

    Just publish it!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    RevMike, Dec 15th, 2006 @ 9:42am

    Maybe we just alter the threshold for the patent

    In the USA the constitution provides that Congress can create patents and copyright with the following words:

    To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries"

    Perhaps the simplest reform would be to require that patent applications justify why the grant of the patent would "promote the progress of science and useful arts". Furthermore, patent enforcement litigation should also take this end into account.

    If the "promotion of progress" was taken seriously, we could protect the right of the inventor who has made substantial investment in creating something new and original, but have a useful weapon against junk patents as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2006 @ 9:46am

    Seems like they are trying to slap a buzzword on a problem to distract attention from the underlying issues of proper staffing and training levels for examiners and correct enforcement of patent-related regulations and laws.

    Building a wiki won't fix problems like patenting crap like "one-click purchasing" and such. The system is outdated at its core.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Ezra, Dec 18th, 2006 @ 7:19am

    Wiki Being Used to Gather Prior Art Already

    This Wikipedia article on the History of virtual learning environments is aimed at finding prior art to the US patent 6,988,138 granted earlier this year. Several members of the online education community were most upset at Blackboard being granted this patent which sounds very vague. I'm not aware of other cases where a wiki is being used in this manner.

    According to the GAO, the USPTO patent examiners have a quota to process 87 patents a year (p. 28), which translates to an average of 19 hours per patent per examiner. Just reading the application is 2 of those hours. Other government agencies open up their review processes to public opinion. Anything that can be done to curb the numbers of bad patents being granted would be good, I think. Whether its better peer review by experts (who has the time?) or peer review by the interested public, I am hopeful something is done soon.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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