The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) faces a major challenge: an overload of patent applications (including sinister patent trolls) and far too few analysts to evaluate them. The quantity problem is compounded by difficulty of searching for existing patents and prior art that might discourage additional applications. The result is absurd wait times for would-be patent holders, lots of mockable patent granting decisions, and an overall lack of transparency of the patent process to the public.
But USPTO lately deserves more credit. Nearly a year ago to the day, I wrote about Peer-to-Patent, an innovative effort to open up the difficult and time-consuming task of researching prior art to the scientific and technical communities who possess the subject matter expertise to quickly evaluate patent applications. It was an early #gov20 success and its creator, Beth Noveck, was soon plucked from her job in academia to become the United States Deputy CTO for Open Government.
Today, Google announced another step forward. The USPTO is partnering with Google to bring 10 terabytes of patent and trademark data to the web for easy download. Analysts now have the data necessary to perform exciting trends analysis and otherwise parse the information to demystify patent granting. This must be a costly endeavor and I applaud USPTO for letting Google bear the costs. It's not often that a government agency so fully relinquishes control of its data for public consumption and this is a major #gov20 win.