by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
crowdsourcing, patents, prior art, uspto

google, stackexchange

StackExchange, Google Team Up With USPTO To Help Crowdsource Prior Art Discovery

from the this-is-a-good-thing dept

I've been a big fan of StackExchange, for a while, as a very cool platform for getting expert insight into a variety of (mostly, but not entirely, technical) questions. The platform is so useful that, last week, Google even announced that it was pushing its own YouTube API developer support efforts off of its own Google Groups platform and over to Stack Overflow (the original StackExchange site). But that appears to be just one area in which the two companies are collaborating. As they announced today, StackExchange and Google are working together on, a site dedicated to better crowdsourcing prior art.

And it's not just StackExchange and Google working together: they've teamed up with the USPTO to make it easier for good prior art to be submitted to the USPTO to (hopefully) invalidate bad patents. While we were incredibly underwhelmed by the America Invents Act, which was last year's attempt at patent reform, it has (finally) made it much easier to allow third parties to submit prior art which may be helpful to examiners during the ~18 hours they spend in reviewing each patent. There was the famed Peer-to-Patent program, which I was quite skeptical about, but this seems to take that to another level, thanks in part to the useful setup of StackExchange's system that helps float good ideas to the top.

But where this gets much more powerful is through integration in two key spots. First up, this will be integrated into Google's patent pages. Recently, Google launched its prior art finder, which tried to help people find prior art through automated searches -- but you can now also click through directly to the AskPatents site by clicking a "discuss" button that will be shown on each patent page, which will take you straight to the StackExchange page. Neat. The second integration may be even more powerful. As people find useful prior art and it bubbles to the top, StackExchange's system will make it easy to then directly submit it to the USPTO. Clicking a button will take you to an already filled out USPTO form, where a bit of additional info can be added and submitted.

StackExchange founder Joel Spolsky sees this as an opportunity to help stamp out bad patents: "Collectively, we’re building a crowd-sourced worldwide detective agency to track down and obliterate bogus applications. Over time, we hope that the Patent Stack Exchange will mitigate the problems caused by rampant patent trolling. It’s not a complete fix, but it’s a good start."

There are still tremendous structural problems with the patent system. And, at best, a system like this just helps to prevent some of the bigger mistakes, rather than attacking any of the fundamental problems. But, given just how damaging absolutely ridiculous patents are these days, anything that helps stop bad patents has to be seen as a good thing.

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  1. identicon
    Willton, 20 Sep 2012 @ 8:28am


    It is that the bobble heads working there seem to think that something that was done decades ago by pointing a light pen or a stylus at a screen should be worthy of a patent now that it can be done by touching a finger to the screen.

    Um, are you referencing something? Because most of the touch-screen patents expired in the 90's. If you're referencing something in particular, perhaps you should consider that what was actually patented is much more complicated then you're letting on.

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