Washington - The Department of Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today announced it will extend the duration, increase the maximum number of applications, and expand the scope of applications eligible to participate in the Peer Review Pilot. The pilot, launched in June 2007, encourages the public to review volunteered published patent applications and submit technical references and comments on what they believe to be the best prior art to consider during the examination. The expansion and extension of the pilot is effective today.
The pilot was initially restricted to patent applications in the computer-related arts (those classified in Technology Center 2100). The scope of the program is now expanded to include applications in the automated business data processing technologies, or business methods, class 705. Technical experts in the computer and business methods-related arts registering with the peertopatent.org website will review and submit information for up to 400 published patent applications, up from 250 as originally announced. No more than 25 separate applications will be allowed from any one person or organization, up from 15 in the original announcement.
"The USPTO continues to support the Peer Review Pilot to help it fulfill its promise as a way to help get the best prior art expeditiously before the examiner," noted Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Jon Dudas. "Extending and expanding the pilot to include business method patent applications will add more participants to the pilot and help us and the public better assess the effectiveness of Peer Review."
The pilot is being conducted in cooperation with the Peer-to-Patent Project, organized by the New York Law School's Institute for Information Law and Policy. The pilot is extended for an additional 12 months and will end on June 15, 2009.
To date, companies participating in the Peer Review Pilot have included IBM, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, Intel, GE, Red Hat, Cisco, Yahoo!, and others. With the expansion of the pilot, Goldman Sachs has volunteered to join as a participant.
"We support the Peer Review Pilot and commend the USPTO's decision to expand the program to include financial sector innovation, which has been one of the most difficult areas to locate relevant prior art." remarked John Squires, chief intellectual property counsel at Goldman Sachs. "Expansion of the pilot into class 705 will allow the office to access considerable industry expertise and holds promise for improving patent quality and the shortening of long pendency times."
Existing law allows the USPTO to accept prior art from the public, but it doesn't allow the public to submit any commentary related to the art without the approval of the applicant. Thus, consent will be obtained from all applicants whose applications are volunteered and selected for the pilot. Applicants agree to have their patent applications posted for up to four months (but no less than three months) on the www.peertopatent.org website. Expert volunteers from the public then discuss the applications and submit prior art they think might be relevant to determining if an invention is new and non-obvious. The prior art submission is limited to 10 references.
So far, the pilot's first 31 applications have been examined. More than half of the examiners who examined an application in the Peer Review Pilot so far thought the prior art submitted by the peers was helpful during examination. More than one-third of the examiners used peer-supplied prior art in the first action on the merits. Nearly 75 percent of the participating examiners said they believed the program would be useful if it were incorporated into regular office practice.
For this pilot, applications are assigned to an examiner for examination as soon as a submission is received from the peertopatent.org website. This shortens considerably the time it normally takes from filing an application to a first action on the merits in the areas where the pilot is occurring.
For further information on the program and to review the Official Gazette notice, visit http://www.uspto.gov/web/patents/peerpriorartpilot/.