Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
United States Government Patents Politics

USPTO Peer Review Process To Begin Soon 116

Posted by Zonk
from the it's-like-every-einstein's-dream-come-true dept.
An anonymous reader writes "As we've discussed several times before on Slashdot, the US patent office is looking to employ a Wiki-like process for reviewing patents. It's nowhere near as open as Wikipedia, but there are still numerous comparisons drawn to the well-known project in this Washington Post story. Patent office officials site the huge workload their case officers must deal with in order to handle the modern cycle of product development. Last year some 332,000 applications were handled by only 4,000 employees. 'The tremendous workload has often left examiners with little time to conduct thorough reviews, according to sympathetic critics. Under the pilot project, some companies submitting patent applications will agree to have them reviewed via the Internet. The list of volunteers already contains some of the most prominent names in computing, including Microsoft, Intel, Hewlett-Packard and Oracle, as well as IBM, though other applicants are welcome.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

USPTO Peer Review Process To Begin Soon

Comments Filter:
  • ... maybe they could start peer reviewing /. titles too
    • Patent ratings!! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Monday March 05, 2007 @09:10AM (#18236270)

      ... maybe they could start peer reviewing /. titles too
      Nah.... We'd be much better off if the USPTO followed our example and started giving anonymous members of the public the ability to assign mod-points to patents. People could express their approval of a patent with ratings like: '+1 Innovative', '+1 Ingenious' while particularly silly patents would get a rating of: '+1 Funny'. As for disapproval, it could be expressed with ratings like: '-1 Prior Art' or the somewhat more forceful: '-1 WTF!?!' and let's not forget the indispensable: '-1 Patent troll'. Just imagine how much fun we could all have with a system like that!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mateub (146588)
        Savage-Rabbit (308260) wrote:

        We'd be much better off if the USPTO followed our example and started giving anonymous members of the public the ability to assign mod-points to patents.

        In fact, the WaPo article sounds to me like the USPTO intends something much closer to Slashdot than a Wiki:

        The Patent and Trademark Office is starting a pilot project that will not only post patent applications on the Web and invite comments but also use a community rating system designed to push the most respected comments t

      • by Quantam (870027)
        And now that Slashdot has heard of it, Microsoft will never receive another patent again.
  • well.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mastershake_phd (1050150) on Monday March 05, 2007 @07:27AM (#18235776) Homepage
    How about some common sense. For one thing the applications are overly complex if you ask me. I bet amazons one-click patent app was over ten pages. You read ten pages on making a one-click-super-ecommerce-solution and you might think it was a complex patentable idea. Well, maybe you wouldnt but someone there does.
    • 10 pages...probably more like 50 to 100 pages. I submitted a patent that I wrote up myself and in order to do it I read several in the same group. Most that I read were undoubtedly written by patent attorneys and they are the vaguest most obfuscated gibberish you've ever seen, designed to tie competitors up in court for years. (You can read 1000s of patents on the USPTO website) I think the process is all about getting a refusal (or rubber stamp approval) from the confused and overworked examiner, and then
  • by freedom_india (780002) on Monday March 05, 2007 @07:30AM (#18235790) Homepage Journal
    Why employ as "volunteers" from Oracle, HP, IBM, etc., which are known patent abusers?
    Why not employ unemployed qualified volunteers and also pay them to do a peer review.
    That way you solve two problems:
    1. Boost employment to qualified people.
    2. Prevent any bias since the people used by USPTO are unemployed anyway.

    But, then like all other half-as$ed efforts by any Govt. agency, they will allow ballot stuffing by Microsoft and IBM....
    • by Frosty Piss (770223) on Monday March 05, 2007 @08:32AM (#18236058)

      Why not employ unemployed qualified volunteers and also pay them to do a peer review.

      So... Where do you suppose these qualified volunteers will come from? Perhaps present and former employees of companies that develop and use the kind of technology that gets patented are the people with the knowledge to make informed contributions to this Patent Wiki? I mean honestly, where do you expect they will come from? Slashdot, maybe? Believe it or not, the average Slashdotter may not actually be qualified for this type of work, and is every bit as biased as you suggest anyone working a "big company" is.

    • by 15Bit (940730)
      How would this differ from actually hiring these unemployed people?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Why employ as "volunteers" from Oracle, HP, IBM, etc., which are known patent abusers?

      Unfortunately, neither you nor the modders understand that the "volunteers" are those having their patents reviewed via internet, not doing the reviews as an institution.

      Of course technical experts from those companies as well as anyone else, including any of us on slashdot, can also participate. The article describes the patent office deciding to initially follow a democratic pr
    • Why not employ unemployed qualified volunteers and also pay them to do a peer review.

      Why not use free, transparent reviews from identified, publically disclosed reviewers across the internet who can be rated by everyone as to the value of their comments on the patent?

      That is what the Washington Post article describes the Patent Office as deciding after talking to CmdrTaco, eBay experts, etc.

      Although we'll be in uncharted waters if the Patent
  • no subject (Score:3, Insightful)

    by UnixSphere (820423) on Monday March 05, 2007 @07:31AM (#18235792)
    332000 divided by 4000 equals to 83

    So each worker had to look at 83 of them PER YEAR

    How the hell is this alot?

    • Re:no subject (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenis@SLACK ... com minus distro> on Monday March 05, 2007 @07:39AM (#18235826) Homepage
      5 days a week, times 47 [or so] weeks of work == 235 days. That gives them just under 3 (2.83) days to read the patent, understand it, look for prior art, and then say "yay/nay."

      That's not actually a lot if you think about it. Sure some patents are probably trivially rejectable, but many probably require some deciphering before you get to the "omg that's obvious" stage.

      Like this 7 page [google.com] patent (yes, I'm picking on them) for table based multiplication. Not only is it an obvious idea, that even the average 10 year old could figure out, but it's already been used by many hardware manufacturers (ARM used it for the ARM7 multiplier for instance). From the first few claims the "invention" doesn't really seem invalid until you put it together, and realize that it's the mechanical equivalent of long hand multiplication.

      While you or I would easily spot that patent and say "no shit," a patent examiner must be able to defend their decision, so they must actually cite prior art (or make a convincing argument the idea was obvious). That also takes time.

      Tom
      • by suso (153703) *
        I think they need to raise the cost of getting a patent or base it on annual revenue of the company applying. This may solve a number of problems.
        • You can't discriminate based on their income.

          However, I don't see where filing patents is a right. If a company abuses it, they should have their patent abilities suspended.

          Tom
        • by LurkerXXX (667952)
          That would be dumb. Then no 'little guy's could afford to patent a great idea. Only corporations with deep pockets could. It's already very expensive for a regular working guy with a great idea to try to patent it and make some money off the invention. Don't make it worse.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 05, 2007 @10:48AM (#18237142)
        (Former patent examiner here)

        The vast majority (I'd say 98%) of patent apps are initially reviewed and rejected, but the attorney usually argues the rejection and/or adjusts the claims and sends the aplicaiton back. So the examiner has to re-review the application, and this back-and-forth action often goes on for months or years before the patent is finally issued or abandoned.

        So really, each examiner is looking at twice as many applications a week as you think they are. Even though half of them are ones they've already seen, it typically takes 3-6 months to get a reply, and by then it's hard to remember all the details. Also, the claims are often so changed that a whole new prior art search is required. As Tom noted, it sometimes takes a while to dig up the prior art to shoot down each claim, even if the invention is clearly obvious.

        At least in my art unit, it was rare to find an application with a spec that was under 20 pages and had less than 30 claims. I'd say 40-90 claims was the average. That's a lot of material to sift through, especially for entry-level engineers with little experience in the industry (which comprise the PTO's vast majority of employees). When I worked there, it was pretty standard for patent examiners to work 10 hour days in addition to Saturdays or Sundays, and not get paid for the overtime.
    • by fabs64 (657132)
      1.5 applications per employee per week, without taking account of holiday time, employees in admin etc.
      Try researching the validity of 1.5 20 page technical documents for a field you have absolutely no expertise in a week.
      • by Dunbal (464142)
        Try researching the validity of 1.5 20 page technical documents for a field you have absolutely no expertise in a week.

              Judging by the whole mess the patent system is in, one could make a case that they didn't bother doing any research during that week anyway...simply let the application sit for a while then stamped it "approved" so long as it wasn't something very silly (like a warp drive).
    • by N Monkey (313423)

      332000 divided by 4000 equals to 83

      So each worker had to look at 83 of them PER YEAR

      How the hell is this alot?


      Errrr... because it probably take several weeks to understand most patents especially if you are not an expert in that particular field.
    • by smeckert (713620)
      >>332000 divided by 4000 equals to 83
      >>So each worker had to look at 83 of them PER YEAR

      You must not be familiar with government in the US.

      For example, if you have a pothole to fill, it
      takes at least fie people to fill it in.
      You have the dispacher, the driver, the
      supervisor, the safety official.
      Oh, yeah, I almost forgot the guy with the shovel.

      Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the hole getting filled.

      Mind you, five to one is probably conservative when
      you're talking about adding lawyers to the mix
  • by Apple Acolyte (517892) on Monday March 05, 2007 @07:31AM (#18235794)
    If we let Microsoft employees do this work for the Patent Office, I can only imagine what sorts of patents are going to get approved. M$ will have every patent under the sun. Somehow, I don't think letting huge corporate interests "assist" the government would make the process better.
    • M$ will have every patent under the sun.
      M$ will have every patent over Sun.

      There, fixed it for you.
    • If we let Microsoft employees do this work for the Patent Office, I can only imagine what sorts of patents are going to get approved. M$ will have every patent under the sun. Somehow, I don't think letting huge corporate interests "assist" the government would make the process better.

      I read TFA, and I don't see how that could happen.

      The system doesn't allow MS employees (or anyone other than patent office employees) to approve patent applications, or even support them. The only thing that can be done through the wiki is to offer evidence of prior art that may invalidate the patent applications.

      Of course, MS employees could try to invalidate all of, say, IBM's patent applications, or opponents of patents in general could try to invalidate everyone's applications, perhaps even submitting bogus prior art. That's why they're trying to create a reputation system, initially determining the weight to give a particular submission by the submitter's academic and professional credentials and then after the system has been running for a while using submission history -- favoring the submissions of those who have submitted solid prior art citations in the past.

      I don't see any way this won't be an improvement over the present system.

      It also doesn't appear to me that the submitters will be limited to employees of the listed corporations. Based on my reading of the article, it sounds like anyone who has the relevant qualifications will be able to participate. IBM, MS, etc. have volunteered to pay some of their employees to participate. It's rather obvious that they would want to, actually. It's much cheaper to invalidate other companies' patents before they're granted than to fight them in court afterward. It would be a good idea for the OSTG to pay a couple people to participate as well, focused on invalidating patents that may represent a risk to open source.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by s0abas (792033) *
      The idea is that it is peer reviewed. Sure Microsoft could submit bogus information, but the concept of collaboration is that other people would see it and vote it as bogus. This is also much better than the current system because at least now, the patent examiners at least have _some_ information about that patent from people in the field (whether from a large corporation or not).

      Also I could be wrong, but the way I read the article it seemed like only those companies would be testing the system, not
  • Language? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenis@SLACK ... com minus distro> on Monday March 05, 2007 @07:32AM (#18235798) Homepage
    Why not just require more concise, less ambiguous language in the patents?

    Oh, and penalties for things that are obviously non-patentable like this [google.com] table base multiplier. But the penalty shouldn't be money, though the fees should be forfeited. It should be in time. As in each obvious, or invalid patent sends your company to the bottom of the patent pile for 12 months.

    The # of patents doesn't match the # of true innovations. So the true solution to the problem, and not the stopgap band-aid solution, is to reduce the # of junk patents. Since companies can't be trusted [sadly] to use self-control we'll have to, as a society, impose penalties and restrictions.

    Maybe if companies knew they could lose patents for legit ideas by filing bogus applications they'd think twice before sending in the application?

    Tom
    • Your post at 6:32 Why not just require more concise, less ambiguous language in the patents? is clearly a violation of my Intellectual Property in my 6:27AM post For one thing the applications are overly complex if you ask me. Please cease and desist immediately.
  • I wonder if a system like this will get my patent on left side book binding through.
  • From TFA

    "Anyone who believes he knows of information relating to these proposed patents will be able to post this online and solicit comments from others. But this will suddenly make available reams of information, which could be from suspect sources, and so the program includes a "reputation system" for ranking the material and evaluating the expertise of those submitting it. (...)

    Patent examiners, for instance, will award "gold stars" to people who previously submitted the most useful information for
    • I for one welcome our karma-whoring patent denying overlords...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      How is this not Slash [wikipedia.org], from our truly and good Slashdot? Everything is there, from Score to karma to Mod points. This is far from being wiki, and much more like being slash.

      It's supposed to be, they consulted CndrTaco about it. It has even more elements of eBay and Amazon as well. I don't think it has much to do with the Wikipedia process at all from what I can tell.

      Apparently "citing" Wikipedia is based on pure name recognition and easier to under
    • by martyb (196687)

      How is this not Slash [wikipedia.org], from our truly and good Slashdot? Everything is there, from Score to karma to Mod points. This is far from being wiki, and much more like being slash.

      It sure sounds like it to me. In fact, I suggested much the same thing as this here: PatentDot [slashdot.org] on Feb 19, 2006.

      I don't know if they actually referred to this post when they designed this system, but it seems to have the same elements involved. Heh. Maybe I should have patented it? <grin>

    • Anyway, what I would like to see is truly peer reviewed patent examination, the kind of review that is done in the scientific community, where the process is publicly disclosed (let's say, in a specialized magazine) and people in the field either submit proof that it is either obvious or has prior art or accepts the patent as valid. Similar to what happens when one claims to have found a proof to some mathematical theorem. Not that I believe that it will happens someday, but a man can dream, can't he?

      The b

  • So the big companies will have a influence on what new technologies get patents?

    That is an unfair advantage because two reasons.

    First, they will have a better view of developing technologies than the other companies. They will know earlier than others if some new tech is available, innovative and useful. They will be able to buy out the upstart producing it before anyone else.

    Also, they will be able to give a harder time in the review process to patent applications coming from competitors.
  • the US patent office is looking to employ a Wiki-like process for reviewing patents.

    Hopefully, the US Patent Office will not allow people with false credentials to review the patents.

  • To Being! (Score:1, Offtopic)

    To Being! Finally, to Being!
  • Some Numbers (Score:4, Informative)

    by oldwindways (934421) on Monday March 05, 2007 @09:02AM (#18236212) Homepage Journal
    I'm not sure where the Washington Post got their numbers, but according to the USPTO's own Annual Report [uspto.gov], they received more than 615,300 patent related applications, which were dealt with by 4,883 examiners. A reasonable calculation then suggests that they would have to process the applications in an average of 15 hours each to keep up with demand.

    In actuality, only 332,535 patents were disposed in FY2006, which means the backlog (already in excess of on million patent applications) only grew. In a system where your application is not likely to even be looked at for the first 22 months, and it takes more than 2.5 years for the average application to be processed, they are desperately in need of help examining.

    The most depressing part of the report is to look at their goals. The objective is not to reduce the backlog, or improve first action or total pendency time, it is simply to have the backlog increase by less than in previous years. With this kind of thinking, there is no end in sight. What is really needed is a radical change of leadership, such that the resources being allocated and the goals being set can actually improve the situation.
  • by vjmurphy (190266) on Monday March 05, 2007 @09:18AM (#18236322) Homepage
    "USPTO Peer Review Process To Being Soon"

    To being soon what? :) Or is Yoda writing headlines again?
  • Thought occurs to me of requiring the people who register patents to be required to be randomly selected as in affect a juror on a number of patents, the number determined as a geared ration against the number of patents they register. So a single application might require you to review two, ten a hundred. (Obviously the gearing changes in a sliding scale).

    Details like what evidence of research needs to be submitted etc would need defining but I like it. It throws the cost back onto the biggest users of

  • by CubanCorona (759226) on Monday March 05, 2007 @09:56AM (#18236608)
    Of course, no one denies that the patent system needs change--most likely a significant reform. The Patent Office knows this!! They are currently hiring thousands of examiners to help deal with the backlog. They have instituted hotelling programs to allow examiners to work from remote locations, thus freeing up valuable office space for new examiners. The Office is constantly developing new search tools to better help examiners locate prior art, especially for business method and software patents which can be very hard to invalidate.

    Remember, the law as it currently stands states, "A person shall be entitled to a patent unless..." Thus, the burden is on the examiner to PROVE that a patent should not be granted. This can be VERY hard, even when the technology appears clearly to be unpatentable.

    I have to say, I am very surprised at some of the comments coming from such an educated group of people. Destructive criticism will get us nowhere.

    Notwithstanding the problems of our current system, patents ARE important for protecting innovation. Countries from around the world recognize this, and, believe it or not, try to emulate our system for the protection of intellectual property.

    Give the Patent Office some credit here. This is a DRASTIC and REVOLUTIONARY change they are trying to institute here. It is VERY progressive, and it seems very in-tune with the open-source trend in information sharing and collaboration. They clearly recognize the need for change, and they really are working to find the right solution.

    So before you start ranting about how the patent office sucks and how patents should be abolished. Take some time to think about why patents fundamentally encourage and protect innovation, and why the job facing the Patent Office is not so easy.

    Again, everyone is looking for a better solution. That is why the Office is testing this program! Maybe it will work, maybe it won't. One thing, however, is sure: unhelpful and unreasonable criticisms from close-minded individuals do not help.
  • Could somebody please point to the verb in that title?

    I'm trying to make sense out of it but I can't.

  • "... Last year some 332,000 applications were handled by only 4,000 employees. ..."

    I do not think that being over burdened with work is an acceptable reason for granting any patent. As for the "One Click" patent, who ever granted that one should be fired for cause. That decision actually did cause damage to internet commerce, on a global scale. As for the concept of "Software Patents". Software was always litigated using copy write law.
    • by pelican66 (962862)
      Not to mention the person who granted a patent for automatic starting of Flash movies (Does "press SPACEBAR or click to activate" ring a bell?); I want that person in jail, let alone out of a job.
  • Someone patent Wikis. We'll make a fortune licensing it to the USPTO!
  • There was this slashdot thread [slashdot.org] about proposed legislation in Illinois preventing computers at public libraries and schools from accessing "social networking" sites. Can the USPTO's "community rating system" be seen as a social network? Does the USPTO function similiar to a "public library", i.e. a repository of information accessable to the public?

    I like this quote from David Kappos at IBM: "For the first time in history, it allows the patent-office examiners to open up their cubicles and get access to

    • I can't tell if you're an imbecile or if this post is tongue-in-cheek. I'll compromise and proceed simply as though it's ignorant.

      Collaborative sites for academic purposes are not banned. Peer-review journals would have to be blocked, as would all wikis, and all sorts of other legitimate services. Myspace and whatnot are not relevant. More to the point, the rating service is not a social networking site. It does not center on individuals, but on patents.

      The USPTO employs technical experts already, to t
  • Base the review system on the ASTM model used for creating national standards. Each patent would be assigned to one sub-committee. The voting members of the committee are limited to only one per corporation or university but qualified private consultants/individuals can serve too. Non-voting associates of the voting member are welcome to participate in the discussion. The patent committee will serve as an advisor to the examiner with each claim accepted or rejected by consensus vote but the rejecting votes
  • Quoting the summary

    Patent office officials site the huge workload...
    The poster might want to look up the difference for the next time.
  • Unlike the PTO's examiners, who nowadays see applicants as their "customers", the commentors won't have a bias towards letting things slide. So they'll rightly shoot down most applications, and (assuming the PTO takes this seriously) grant rates will plummet. The PTO will regard this as a bad thing, and end the project.
  • doing the peer review...

    The fall down is that the open source community generally sees it bad for a developer to subject themselves to patent information as that is a mental virus that leads to claims of "knowing" by those supporting patents against a developers work.

    We are talking pre-patent granting.

    Then there is the additional back and forth of patent application that is simply trying to remove open source land mines. (the same sort of land mines patents present the open source developer). This peer revi

A penny saved is a penny to squander. -- Ambrose Bierce

Working...