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

Using Social Software to Change Patent Reviewing

by Dennis D. McDonald

I was tempted to title this entry "Patent 2.0," but I resisted.

The Peer to Patent Project -- which also refers to itself as the Community Patent Project -- describes itself as follows:

Sponsored by IBM, the Community Patent Project ... aims to design and pilot an online system for peer review of patents. The Community Patent system will support a network of experts to advise the Patent Office on prior art as well as to assist with patentability determinations. By using social software, such as social reputation, collaborative filtering and information visualization tools, we can apply the “wisdom of the crowd” – or, more accurately the wisdom of the experts – to complex social and scientific problems. This could make it easier to protect the inventor’s investment while safeguarding the marketplace of ideas.

Wow. While there is nothing new about the concept of peer review (back when the Earth was still cooling I actually researched how scientific journals use the peer review process with the support of NSF funding) this project is a very serious use of "web 2.0" technologies in service of a very important societal function, i.e., patent review. I'll definitely be researching this site and its functionality (it links to a community-developed proposal that supports user-contributed text and comments) in the near future.

It will be interesting to see how taking advantage of "the wisdom of the experts" will work out, given the reputation the Patent and Trademark Office (located about ten minutes away from me here in Alexandria, Virginia) has gotten in recent years for making some rather bone-headed determinations of patentability in the area of software. (What that Office's involvement in this experiment is will be something I follow up on.)

As a sidenote, I searched for Community Patent Project on Kartoo. This is the map I got  back, which suggests some very interesting links to follow up on:


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