Patent Office tries "Stack Overflow for patents" to find prior art

New site allows the general public to submit evidence of patent invalidity.

by Timothy B. Lee - Sept 20 2012

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) hopes to improve patent quality by soliciting greater feedback from the general public about pending patents. Last year's America Invents Act included a provision requiring the Patent Office to accept submissions from the general public about patent validity, especially concerning "prior art"—evidence that the subject of a particular patent application had been previously invented by someone else.

In addition to allowing third parties to submit information directly to patent examiners, the USPTO has also worked with Stack Exchange, the company behind the popular programming Q&A website Stack Overflow, to create a new site called Ask Patents. (Stack Exchange is a syndication partner of Ars Technica.) Examiners or others looking for prior art can post questions about a specific application, and members of the general public can respond with evidence that an applicant was not the first to invent the subject matter of the application.

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