Intellectual Property

More Eyeballs in the Patent Office?

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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office flirts with opening up their semi-secretive approval process:

The patent office is experimenting with the concept of opening the examination process to outsiders, inviting public peer reviews. On June 15, Dudas said, the patent office will begin a pilot project for open reviews of software patents. The patents in the pilot program will be posted on a Web site, and members of the public with software expertise will be allowed to send the patent office technical references relevant to the patent claims.

Right now, the pilot project to allow public review of information technology patent requests is only for cases where the applicant has given approval. "Legislative changes would be required to have public peer views without an applicant's approval, and thus to extend the concept to other fields." Under the current system,

an inventor is required to explain why a new product is sufficiently original to deserve the exclusive rights that patent protection conveys. But the applicants have a lot of discretion. The supporting information, Dudas said, ranges from "almost nothing" to what he called "malicious compliance," which he described as boxes and boxes of background information intended mainly to obscure the nugget of an invention in the patent application."

Sounds like a job for Linus' law.