Roundtable on USPTO Use of Crowdsourcing to Identify Relevant Prior Art

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) hosted a roundtable on December 2, 2014, and is requesting written comments on USPTO use of crowdsourcing to identify relevant prior art.  Members of the public are invited to submit written comments.

On February 20, 2014, the White House issued a series of executive actions including crowdsourcing prior art as a means to strengthen patent quality.  The roundtable addressed the executive action by exploring: (1) how the USPTO can utilize crowdsourcing tools to obtain relevant prior art in order to enhance the quality of examination and issued patents; and (2) ways the USPTO can leverage existing private sector solutions for the electronic receipt and hosting of crowdsourced materials as a means to provide prior art to examiners.

For further information, please see the Federal Register Notice.

Written Comment Period Extended

On November 12, 2014, the USPTO published a Federal Register notice announcing a December 2, 2014, roundtable event and soliciting public feedback regarding topics presented in the notice directed to USPTO use of crowdsourcing to identify relevant prior art. The notice set a written comment deadline date of December 9, 2014. The USPTO is extending the comment period to provide interested members of the public with an additional opportunity to submit written comments to the USPTO.

The new deadline for receipt of written comments in response to the November 12, 2014 notice is January 13, 2015.

Any member of the public, regardless of whether they attended the roundtable, may submit written comments on any of the topics identified in part II of the "Supplementary Information" section of the notice:

1. In what ways can the USPTO utilize crowdsourcing to identify relevant prior art that would be available for use in the examination of published applications while maintaining the ex parte nature of patent examination? Some examples of how the public traditionally uses crowdsourcing include: passively monitoring discussions (thread) between parties on crowdsourcing Web sites, and posting a question on a crowdsourcing Web site and viewing responses to the posted question.

2. If the USPTO were to post a question relating to the technology of a published application on a crowdsourcing Web site, what follow-up communications, if any, could someone from the USPTO have with parties on the Web site? Some examples of how the public traditionally engages in follow-up communications on crowdsourcing Web sites include: A conversation on the thread with a particular party who responded to the posted question to clarify information the party provided, and a conversation on the thread with a particular party who responded to the initial posting to request additional information.

3. What appropriate precautions, if any, could the USPTO employ to ensure that the use of crowdsourcing tools does not encourage a protest or other form of preissuance opposition to the grant of a patent? (See 35 U.S.C. 122(c).)

4. If the USPTO cites in an application prior art obtained via crowdsourcing tools, to what extent, if any, should the USPTO document the crowdsourcing activities used to identify the prior art?

5. For each published patent application, if the USPTO gave the patent applicant the option to opt-in or opt-out of the USPTO’s use of crowdsourcing, would applicants choose to participate in the crowdsourcing program? What considerations would inform the applicant’s decision?

Please submit your written comments to

Deadline for submitting written comments: January 13, 2015.

For further information on submitting written comments, please see the notice.

Roundtable Event

The roundtable was held on December 2, 2014, in the Moot Court Room, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, 55 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10003.

Roundtable materials:


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Webcast Information

The roundtable was webcast.

Additional Information

Contact Information

Requests for additional information regarding registration and speaker presentations should be directed to:

Jack Harvey
Technology Center 2800
Telephone: 571-272-8004