Google / Search Engines, Intellectual Property, Patents, Tax Law, Technology, Trademarks

Thanks to Cool New Crowd-Sourcing Website, Now You Can Help Prevent Bogus Patents

Change is in the air! And it’s not just pollen. On the heels of an explosion of popular interest in (and subsequent boredom with) intellectual property, stemming from the Apple v. Samsung case, as well as new IP regulatory changes, the time is right to take IP reform to the streets! Let’s burn this mother down… or crowd-source it, at least.

A new partnership between the U.S. Patent Office, Google, and popular tech website Stack Exchange, will recruit average Americans to help end the patent wars. Take that, rounded corners!

The idea for Ask Patents is a product of the America Invents Act, which includes new rules allowing third parties to file evidence and comments about patent applications that may be invalid due to prior art or obviousness.

The site, which launched today, grew out of increasing costs and frustration within the tech industry about what you may as well call a patent arms race. As the folks behind the site explained in a blog post this morning, companies have begun “sending lawyers up and down the corridors where the engineers are working, looking for things that they might be able to patent” and securing bogus patents for “inventions” talented programmers can write “in eighth grade. In BASIC. On a TRS-80.” Ostensibly it’s a defensive strategy, but at this point, most people agree the situation has gotten out of control.

The company’s explanation of the new site is longer and more detailed, and Wired’s Threat Level sums it up nicely and succinctly:

Visit patents.stackexchange.com, and you can find a list of patents that others have submitted for debunking or you can submit your own candidate. Users can then find prior art, discuss the patent’s validity, and ultimately submit their evidence directly to the USPTO with the click of a button. Rounding out the partnership, Google’s handy patent search site will show links to Stack Exchange discussions about patents surfaced in search results.

Wired’s write-up doesn’t mince words about why the site is necessary: “Given the scope of the ludricrous patent battles that are engulfing the world’s largest tech companies and sinking small startups, the partnership comes none-too-soon.”

It’s neat to see the government taking a creative, progressive, participatory approach to solving a real problem. The Ask Patent founders give a lot credit to PTO Director David Kappos for making the project happen. He’s already got some serious style points for his cameo in I Patented Sex, and this only adds to his street cred.

The service is free, and I know there’s gotta be some IP attorneys up in herr — or at least some patent hobbyists — so take a look at the site and contribute if you feel compelled. It’s easy, and you’ll be helping America! Yay!

Open Season On Patents Starts Thursday, Thanks to Crowdsourced Platform [Threat Level / Wired]
US government and Stack Exchange launch crowdsourced patent process [Gigaom]
AskPatents.com: A Stack Exchange To Prevent Bad Patents [Stack Exchange]
USPTO Encourages Third Parties to Participate in Review of Pending Patent Applications [USPTO]

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