Patent office to test peer review of tech patents

Year-long pilot program begins June 15

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office said Thursday it is launching a project that could help improve the process for examining applications for patents in computer technologies.

The Peer Review Pilot, which will begin June 15 and run for one year, will allow experts in computer technology to send technical references related to the claims of a published patent application before an examiner reviews it, according to a press statement. The pilot is a joint initiative with the Community Patent Review Project organized by the New York Law School's Institute for Information Law and Policy.

"Studies have shown that when our patent examiners have the best data in front of them, they make the correct decision," said Jon Dudas, director of the patent office, in the statement. "Examiners, however, have a limited amount of time to find and properly consider the most relevant information. This is particularly true in the software-related technologies where code is not easily accessible and is often not dated or well-documented."

Technical experts will review and submit information for up to 250 published patent applications, according to the patent office.

Applicants who volunteer for the project must give their consent for the patent office to seek comments on their applications because the current law doesn't allow the public to submit commentary without the permission of the applicant, the statement said.

"This pilot is just one facet of USPTO's broader efforts to find new ways to get the best information in front of examiners before they make a final decision on a patent application," according to the statement.

More information on the project is available on the patent office Web site.

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