USPTO's pilot Peer-to-Patent program for Peer Review of Patent Applications
Since at least 2007, the USPTO has been piloting peer review programs in an effort to improve patent quality. The latest one, announced in October 2010, is called the Peer-to-Patent program. Applicants can volunteer their applications for review by their peers, but must file a consent-to-participate in the program within one month of publication of the application. Voluntary Peer Reviewers review applications in their area of expertise and provide additional references and comments, which are available to the Examiner for review and consideration. Peer Reviewers can even review applications of their competitors, providing them with a unique opportunity to influence the initial examination of their competitors’ applications.
A participating application that later becomes a granted patent may be considered a higher quality (“gold-plated”) patent, thus lessening the chances that the patent could be found invalid on account of prior art during litigation.
The current pilot program is only available to applications in a few select technology areas where searching can be particularly onerous. These areas include chemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, drug compositions, telecommunications, data processing (including business methods), computers & digital processing systems, and information security. You can find out more information on the program at http://www.peertopatent.org/. If you have questions regarding the program or are interested in how we can help you participate in this program as an Applicant or a Peer Reviewer, please contact us.
Martha Engel is an intellectual property lawyer and associate at the Eden Prairie law firm of Vidas, Arrett & Steinkraus, PA. www.vaslaw.com