Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Peer to Patent Project Documents Published

By Dennis D. McDonald

The Peer to Patent Project (I wrote about it earlier this year here) has published a series of technical documents that describe requirements for the test system that is under development to expand "public participation" in the patent prior art research.

Chief among these documents is the Use Case Model (click here for the pdf). This describes a series of actions that need to be supported by the new system. Here is how "use case" is described by the Peer to Patent Project:

The use case model describes the functionality of the system in terms of actions performed by the user of the system (an Actor) and a description of how the system responds to those actions. Not all use cases are developed at this time.

Per the wikipedia, a use case is a technique for capturing functional requirements of systems. Each use case provides one or more scenarios that convey how the system should interact with the users calledactors to achieve a specific business goal or function. Use case actors may be end users or other systems. Use cases typically avoid technical jargon, preferring instead the language of the end user or domain expert. Use cases are often co-authored by business analysts and end users.

As of October 20, 2006, a total of 27 use cases has been identified, though not all have yet been documented:

1. Register to become a member
2. Setup a new patent application(*)
3. Find one specific patent application
4. Browse patent applications (*)
5. Add a Comment
6. Rank a claim
7. Submit prior art (*)
8. Approve a prior art submission
9. Rate a prior art submission
10. Subscribe to email alerts (*)
11. Review transmitted report (*)
12. Provide feedback on prosecution history (*)
13. Search for prior art (*)
14. View and edit my comments, prior art, alerts, or saved searches(**)
15. Tag patent application (*)
16. Create a custom RSS feed(**)
17. Remove a comment or submission from the website (**)
18. Search comments (**)
19. Find help or a tutorial(**)
20. View an email alert(**)
21. Search and save the search (**)
22. Invite a friend to join the community(**)
23. Join special interest group(**)
24. Communicate with a special interest group(**)
25. Automatic Claim Charting (**)
26. Post request for Help Finding Prior Art (**)
27. Rate a user (**)
(* = architecturally significant use case)
(** = not documented)

The project has established a membership based listserv to support discussion of the technical implications of each of these use cases. This is an example of a development project "opening up" the development process for input from  many different participants.

It will be very interesting to see how this works. Some might complain that this reminds them of trying to "design a system by committee." But keep in mind that the thrust of the project is to make the patent process more open and transparent, a goal that is also supported by one of the project's sponsors, IBM.

My complaint about the project at this point is that there seems to be little integration among the various online tools that are being used as the basis for publishing and collaboration. So far the project has made use of a variety of blogs, wikis, listservs, email mailing lists, and seminars. This plethora of access has proven, at least to me viewing as an outsider, to be confusing and somewhat hard to follow. I am hoping that this is not characteristic of how the final system will be viewed by its users!


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