In June of 2007, as part of the efforts of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to implement its Strategic Plan, the USPTO announced a pilot program to determine the extent to which the organized submission of documents together with comments by the public would be useful to examiners. The stated purpose of the pilot was to test whether such collaboration could effectively locate prior art that might not otherwise be located by the USPTO during the typical patent examination process. The culmination of the two year pilot resulted in numerous data points that support the premise that members of the public, when collaborating in an organized online fashion, are capable of contributing to the location of prior art of value to the examiner during the examination process.
In the interest of gathering data from a more diverse pool of patent applications, the USPTO in cooperation with the New York Law School's Center for Patent Innovations is launching a new 1-year pilot. This pilot will test the scalability of the peer review concept by expanding the candidate pool of applications to technology areas such as Life Sciences, Telecommunications, Business Methods and Computer Hardware and Software and by significantly increasing the total number of applications that may be accepted into the pilot.
The new pilot started on October 25, 2010, and will continue until September 30, 2011.
The notice "A New Pilot Program Concerning Public Submission of Peer Reviewed Prior Art" was signed by Mr. Kappos on December 6, 2010, and published in the Official Gazette on December 28, 2010. It provides further details about the pilot program.
Some of the benefits of the pilot program include the following:
- The application will be advanced out of turn for examination and reviewed earlier (accorded special status similar to applications in the Green Technology Pilot Program);
- No petition fee is required;
- Having the published application posted on the Peer To Patent Web site, volunteer scientific and technical experts will be able to discuss the application and submit prior art through Peer To Patent, thereby contributing to the quality of any patent resulting from the published application.
- Additional relevant prior art references may be made of record and considered by the examiner at an early stage of examination; and
- The prior art references cited under the pilot will be printed on any patent issuing from the application that participated in the pilot program.
The major modifications of the new pilot program include the following:
- The scope of the previous pilot program - which was limited to computer technologies and business methods applications - has been expanded to also include applications in biotechnology, bioinformatics, telecommunications, and speech recognition;
- The number of eligible subject matter classes has been increased threefold;
- The peer review time to search for prior art has been reduced to three months;
- The number of eligible participating applications has been expanded from 400 to 1,000; and
- The number of items of prior art submitted to the USPTO has been reduced from ten to six items.
The USPTO is cooperating with Peer To Patent, organized by the New York Law School's Center for Patent Innovations, which will manage the public aspects of the pilot. Peer To Patent will be responsible for the management of the Internet based review process by the public; the USPTO did not establish Peer To Patent and will not set the membership or agenda, nor assume authority or control over Peer To Patent. The USPTO and Peer To Patent are independent entities and are not agents of each other. Neither party is authorized or empowered to act on behalf of the other with regard to any contract, warranty, or representation as to any matter, and neither party will be bound by the acts or conduct of the other.
For a look back at the original Peer Review Pilot Program, please click here.