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

Update on "Peer to Patent Project" Published

By Dennis D. McDonald

A progress report on the Peer to Patent Project has been published in the form of a PowerPoint presentation available here. The presentation, by Professor Beth S. Noveck of the New York Law School, was presented on March 23, 2006 at the University of Michigan. (A wiki sponsored by the project is here.)

I've already commented on the project here and included a brief podcast on the topic, which can be downloaded here.

The idea of the project is to get more experts involved in the patent review process through the use of social networking technology. The presentation provides an overview of basic social networking concepts already incorporated into systems such as Wikipedia and eBay. One point made about the Wikipedia is that a relatively small proportion of individuals account for the largest proportion of edits. The detail of eBay that is reviewed is the creation of "reputation" scores for sellers. Both these concepts are related to the development of a network of experts to assist in various stages of the patent review process.

Slide 21 contains, I think, some interesting information about why the project is being performed now:

We have arrived at a moment when it is possible to explore the option of “peer review” for patents. Why Now?  Five factors converge:

  1. Political and technological moment is ripe
  2. Citizen consultation practiced by all agencies; peer review in widespread use in government (e.g. NIH, EPA, NSF)
  3. Most US patents applications are published after 18 months
  4. Social reputation, social networking and social recommendation technology
  5. Experience with large scale collaboration: Wikipedia, Slashdot, Yahoo Answers, Open Source Programming suggests scaling of peer review

One possible issue I have seen so far with the project is that, when researching it on the web, it is hard to get a clear picture of the roles of the different organizations involved. (IBM is involved as funder and implementer so hopefully that means that the planning of software and technology infrastructure components are well managed.)

One social networking example I hope the project staff look into is Linkedin. Linkedin is one of several "social networking" systems that helps people grow and manage their professional networks. It has some of the characteristics of the community involvement and expertise management functions that the Peer to Patent project requires.

Using electronic networks to facilitate peer review is nothing new. The National Library of Medicine and National Science Foundation funded many network-based peer review projects more than twenty years ago. Today peer reviewing facilitated by online networks is regularly practiced by scholarly journal publishers. The addition of social software and recommendations systems to the process here, though, will be fun to watch!

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