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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USPTO announces publication of proposed rules and proposed examination guidelines for the first-inventor-to-file provision of the AIA

On Thursday, July 26, 2012, the USPTO announces publication in the Federal Register of proposed rules and proposed examination guidelines for the first-inventor-to-file provision of the AIA. The first-inventor-to-file provision converts the United States from a "first-to-invent" to a "first-inventor-to-file" system. The proposed rules and proposed examination guidelines amend the rules of practice to implement the conversion and set forth the Office's interpretation of how the conversion impacts sections of the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure related to novelty and obviousness. The proposed rules and proposed examination guidelines are accessible here:

Publication in the Federal Register of the first-inventor-to-file proposed rules and proposed examination guidelines opens a public comment period running until October 5, 2012. Your feedback about the agency's proposals is welcome and encouraged. Information about submitting feedback to the agency is available in each of the proposals.


USPTO issues preliminary guidance to the Patent Examining Corps

"Yesterday, in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court held that the claims in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometlreus Laboratories, Inc. (Mayo) effectively claim a law of nature and are not patent-eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101. The purpose ofthis memorandum is to provide preliminary guidance to the Patent Examining Corps, Additional guidance on patent subject matter eligibility under 35 U .S,C. § 101 will be issued soon."

Download USPTO Guidance


Congress deals funding blow to Patent Office

Budget strips $100 million provision for backlogged agency

By John Schmid of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: Dec. 29, 2009

The $1.1 trillion spending bill that Congress passed this month bankrolls thousands of pet projects: the World Food Prize in Iowa, a farmers market in Kentucky, and a 12-mile bike path in Michigan, among many others.

And to pay for a fraction of its largesse, Congress added one late change to the budget: It slapped a restrictive spending ceiling on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, further cramping an agency that was already incapacitated by more than a decade of congressional raids on its fees. 

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