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 @ 12:29pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    There is an AMA from two patent examiners on reddit, /r/Android. They both admit that they are pressured to approve patents rather than reject them. They also say they would be much happier if they were pressured to reject instead of approve them.

    I saw one of them, and the Examiner said that s/he gets pressure from industry and the patent bar. That's not surprising: they have an interest in getting patents. What the Examiner did NOT say is that s/he gets pressure from his/her employer, the USPTO.

    The Examiner also mentioned that "It's just a tough job and sometimes bad patents get issued and good patent applications get rejected." I would agree: sometimes, shit happens.

    If anything, examiners may feel "pressured" to allow claims only because they were formerly pressured to reject. In the past (i.e., under John Dudas), Notices of Allowance were subject to higher-level review, but final rejections were not. Thus, in order to avoid scrutiny, examiners would just reject-reject-reject. Now, under Director David Kappos, both NOAs and Final Rejections get scrutinized. Thus, examiner's have been encouraged to interview applicants so that they can come to a faster understanding of what each side thinks is patentable and come to an agreement.

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