Bumped into my friend Matt in the elevator this morning, and he mentioned an interesting article he had read recently in Fortune, about the idea of opening up the patent application process in the U.S. and putting it on a wiki – letting the community review the patent ideas, cite prior art or areas that shouldn’t be patentable, etc. Given the dumb patents that have been granted in recent years (Friendster patented social networking, etc.), I think that more community review is a great idea.
I did some digging, and here is the page for the project: The Peer to Patent Project: Community Patent Review. There’s also a blog for the project, to keep up with updates. From their “About” page:
Sponsored by IBM, the Community Patent Project seeks to create a peer review system for patents that exploits network technology to enable innovation experts to inform the patent examination procedure. In every field of scientific endeavor, peer review is a critical quality control mechanism to improve innovation. Throughout the public sector both peer review and citizen consultation are either legally mandated or practiced as a way to inform policymaking.
I think this is a great idea, though I can see a lot of opposition, mostly on the part of the patent applicants. This is (ideally) going to make it harder to get a patent approved, but that should improve the quality of the ideas in the patents that do finally get granted. And I can see people freaking out about having their pre-patent ideas out in the open for peer review, but really, anyone can search the US Patent and Trademark Office database for applications, so this doesn’t represent a big change there.
What do you think? If you were going to apply for a patent, would the prospect of having it reviewed and picked over by the community at large have any impact on your idea?