Entries in patents (3)


The U.S. Patent Office

My recent praise of the U.S. Patent Office for its forward-thinking technology partnership with Google was perhaps premature. Peter Orszag, the Director of the Office of Management and Budge commented today that while "the Patent Office receives more than 80 percent of patent applications electronically...these applications are then manually printed out, re-scanned, and entered into an outdated case management system. The average processing time for a patent is roughly three years."

Here is an interesting statistic: only one of the top 10 government IT contractors was founded after the 1960, and that is Dell, who provides the computers, not the software.


USPTO and Google partner on opening patent and trademark data

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.


Crowdsourcing Patent Review: Innovation and transparency at the USPTO


The United States Patent and Tradmark Office (USPTO) may have the mission to promote the progress of science and the useful arts, but it has never been known for exemplifying a culture of innovation itself. That may be changing. A few years ago, a pilot program, the Peer-to-Patent Project opened the patent examination process to public participation for the first time. The project utilizes the collective knowledge of internet users to discover “prior art” that may be used against a patent request. Based upon its initial success, the USPTO has decided to extend the program and an optimist might hope that this signals a new working model for the agency, or perhaps, a broader portion of the government.

Brainchild Beth Noveck of New York University describes the effort as one that explores "how to design a more collaborative culture that involves the scientific community more directly in decision-making." With so many technologies and ideas being shared across the web without formal patent applications, the aim of the project is to reduce the number of frivolous patents and subsequent lawsuits clogging the legal system. Embraced by industry, this development is even better for consumers who should in the future be able to enjoy new products sooner and more cheaply, and without the fear of losing your favorite product as a result of a lawsuit.

Peer-to-patent applies social networking technology to the patent business to ensure that only the worthwhile patents actually receive 20 years of patent rights. The website brings transparency to the patent business, which to many inventors, has in the operated in a shroud of mystery. It also offers opportunities for efficiency, by crowdsourcing evaluation rather than relying only on over-worked patent officers.

And for the casual innovator, the site offers a small window into the type of ideas that people are trying to patent these days (e.g., Continual reorganization of ordered search results based on current user interaction, Process of encryption and operational control of tagged data elements, The community patent review site has new revamped website: http://www.peertopatent.org/.

 Flickr credit: nodomain1