USPTO to institute pilot project to allow public comments on pending applicationsMarch 5, 2007

The Washington Post today provided more detail about a pilot program previously mentioned in this post. Under the program, the USPTO would post pending patent applications that have become accessible to the public (such as after they have been published). Members of the public would then be able to comment on the applications, and even provide additional prior art that the patent office could consider during examination. The interesting thing about the program is that in order to better manage the number of comments that the USPTO could receive, they will implement a comment moderation feature, which will allow users to “moderate” comments up or down depending on the user’s opinion of the value of the comment. The idea behind the system is that the more valuable users believe a comment to be, the higher the comment will be “rated,” and thus the more likely the examiner will be to review it. While there is little detail about the comment moderation feature, it sounds similar to those used by Wikipedia and Slashdot. While it remains to be seen whether this initiative will result in increased patent quality or a more thorough examination of pending applications, many believe that it is a step in the right direction toward issuing patents that are more likely to be found valid when litigated. We will be watching this program to see how it develops, and whether the USPTO decides to implement it more broadly.

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