USPTO Encourages Third Parties to Participate in Review of Pending Patent Applications

Crowdsourcing Initiative with Stack Exchange Enables Experts to Introduce Prior Art and Improve Quality of Examination Process
September 20, 2012
Press Release 12-60

Contact: (Media Only) Patrick Ross
or Paul Fucito (571) 272-8400 or or


Washington - The U.S. Department of Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) encourages subject-matter experts to take advantage of a new rule implemented under the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) that-for the first time in the history of U.S. patent law-allows third parties to submit relevant materials to patent examiners in any given examination. Submission of proposed prior art helps examiners determine whether the innovation in the application is patentable. The new provision, 35 U.S.C. 122(e), was implemented by the USPTO on Sunday, Sept. 16, and applies to any pending application.

Today, efforts are already underway in the private sector to crowdsource the identification of prior art. One such initiative, utilizing input from the USPTO, is a newly launched social network known as Ask Patents by Stack Exchange, in which subject-matter experts volunteer to suggest prior art for given applications, as well as to offer their input on the proposed value of those suggestions from others.

"By introducing third party input into the examination process for the first time since the inception of our nation's intellectual property system, we're able to expand the scope of access to prior art in key areas like software patents. This will improve the examination process and advance the Administration's ongoing commitment to transparency and open government," said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos. "We encourage our nation's innovators to follow Stack Exchange's example and assist us as we improve the examination process and resulting patent quality that will drive our economy and create jobs and exports."

The submission by third parties of prior art-the library of published patents, applications, or other publications in a specific technology area-allows the USPTO to tap directly into the U.S. innovation community. Submissions provide a fuller, more exhaustive scope of materials for examiners to review in determining the novelty of a given application. This new mechanism will help ensure that truly novel, useful, and non-obvious innovations obtain the intellectual property protection they deserve.

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