U.S. PTO turns to crowdsourcing to speed up patent application process

“Crowdsourcing” is probably a popular term in many Florida offices these days. Generally speaking, it refers to the approach of taking a task or a problem to a wide pool of people, sometimes even the public at large, and seeing who can come up with the best and most effective way to complete the task or solve the issue. As an approach, it earns praise for gathering a wide perspective of proposed solutions and for encouraging innovation.

Now, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is getting in on the trend. It recently launched a website called Ask Patents in which members of the public will be allowed to examine patent applications and flag ones they think are have been filed over material that is obvious or not original. (To be patentable, material must be useful, original and non-obvious).

This could be a noteworthy development because the process of getting a final decision on a patent application can take years, even though patent clerks average only 22.5 hours with each application. The idea with Ask Patents is that if patent applications that should not be granted are weeded out, then patent clerks can move through the remaining applications more quickly and do a more thorough job.

Ask Patents and the America Invents Act, which we wrote about earlier this month, seem like they have the potential to make significant changes to the patent-granting process. It’s too early to tell just how these changes will shake out, but it’s certainly something our law office is keeping an eye on.

Source: BBC, “US patent office seeks aid to spot bogus patent claims,” Sept. 21, 2012