The Department of Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today released details of a pilot project that could help expedite and improve the examination process in computer technologies. The Peer Review Pilot will give technical experts in computer technology, for the first time, the opportunity to submit annotated technical references relevant to the claims of a published patent application before an examiner reviews it.
"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 USPTO. "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."
The pilot is a joint initiative with the Community Patent Review Project (CPRP), organized by the New York Law School 's Institute for Information and Policy. The pilot will begin on June 15, 2007 and will run for one year.
Technical experts in the computer arts registering with the CPRP website will review and submit information for up to 250 published patent applications. To ensure a broad cross section of computer technology is reviewed, no more than 15 applications will be allowed from any one person or organization.
Existing law allows USPTO to accept prior art from the public, but it doesn't allow the public to submit any commentary related to the art without the approval of the applicant. Thus, consent will be obtained from all applicants whose applications are volunteered and selected for this pilot.
To expedite review of applications used in the pilot, they will be assigned to an examiner as soon as a submission is received from the CPRP. This will shorten the time it normally takes in the computer arts from filing an application to a final decision. Only one submission from the CPRP of up to 10 annotated references will be accepted for each application in the pilot.
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. To ensure a vibrant, modern patent system, USPTO also supports implementation of "applicant quality submissions" which would include search and support documents from applicants.
USPTO supports expanding the ability of third parties to submit to the USPTO information they believe is pertinent to a pending application, a concept included in patent modernization legislation now under consideration in the U.S. Congress. In combination, the peer review pilot, applicant quality submissions and expanded third party submissions encourage a highly participatory examination process that will lead to more efficient and effective review of patent applications.