Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Open source patenting

The peer-to-patent project is almost ready to go live, reports the Washington Post. For those unfamiliar with this initiative, the peer-to-patent system was proposed by New York Law School Professor Beth Simone Noveck in this paper. If we agree that the American patent system is broken, and reading some of the literature out there it is hard to argue that it is not, then one has to find solutions for viable reform. Noveck's suggestion places the emphasis on the examination part of things, and not so much on substantial reforms to existing legislation, which makes it an attractive solution because it's cheap and easy to implement. Noveck suggests to use a model of peer-review of patent applications by making them available online and open for comment. Following open source and wiki principles, experts will analyse and comment on patent applications to uncover prior-art and to comment on the innovative value of an application. Paraphrasing Linus Law, with more eyeballs, superfluous claims are shallow.

Surprisingly, the idea has caught on, perhaps because it has found the favour of almost all parties involved in the American patent debate. The project has found favour with the big technology companies like IBM and Microsoft, and also with open source developers such as Red Hat. Now the Peer-to-Patent site is open, and the pilot is set to start soon (with an announcement to be made March 12).

If anything, this proves that somebody listens to legal academics from time to time.

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