USPTO TEAMS WITH OPEN-SOURCE TO IMPROVE QUALITY OF SOFTWARE PATENTS: Last month, the USPTO met with companies and organizations in the open-source (OS) software community, including I.B.M., Red Hat, Novell and some universities. During the meeting, one of the biggest concerns communicated to the USPTO was the inability of patent examiners to access better information and prior art in the ongoing effort to issue higher-quality patents.
Today, the USPTO announced a cooperative agreement with the open-source community on three initiatives that are claimed at improving the quality of patents:
(1) Patent Alerts - under the proposal, a new Open Patent Review subscription service will be implemented to allow interested members of the public to subscribe to alerts on relevant new patent applications via email or RSS feed. Created by IBM for the USPTO, the goal is to alert interested parties who might be able to demonstrate prior art. Google also participated in this effort and indicated that its search technology may be used in the project.
(2) "Tagging" OS Software for Prior Art Searching - IBM is also working with the Open Source Development Laboratory (OSDL) to create a streamlined prior art search within open source software. Tags will be provided within the actual software to enable developers to add comments to their code. The tags will be similar to integrated development environment tools already used by programmers. Red Hat, Novell, and SourceForge are also helping to develop a searchable mark-up system.
(3) Patent Quality Index - The third initiative is focused on the creation of a "patent quality index" that would serve as a tool for patent applicants to use in writing their applications. It is based on work done by R. Polk Wagner, who is currently a professor of IP at the University of Pennsylvania. While details of the index have not been released, it is believed that the index will rely on criteria such as how clearly the application is written and references to prior art. The system would not be meant to evaluate the economic potential of patent ideas, but instead provide a baseline for determining whether a patent application merits more or less serious consideration.
Article from New York Times.
Article from DataMonitor.
Gideon Parchomovsky & R. Polk Wagner, Patent Portfolios, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, vol. 154, no.1 (November 2005).
Patent Quality Index FAQ.