Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Wiki for Patent Review

The August 21, 2006 issue of Fortune Magazine has an interesting article on a pilot program to use a wiki as part of the patent review process.
Working with IBM and the Patent Office, Noveck developed a system that will not only permit, for example, an inventor to show that an allegedly new idea is already in practice, but also lets reviewers rate one another's submissions . . .
I think this is a fascinating example of the changes we are just beginning to see in so many areas due to technology and particularly Web 2.0 applications. In this case a blogger (a New York Law School Professor) proposed the idea on her blog last July (I think 2005), it got picked up by Wired Magazine, and then IBM noticed and ran with it. The problem apparently is that there just isn't enough time for the Patent Office to thoroughly examine new patent applications. By utilizing a wiki-type format and opening it up to the world, it
let(s) astute outsiders weigh in during the patent-review process, as online encylopedia Wikipedia does, vastly increasing the information available to the patent examiner.
It's another example of leveraging the "wisdom of the masses" and the vast resources that the Internet provides access to - in this case, in the reverse direction of how we normally think of it - world back to patent office as opposed to patent office out to the world. An idea that progressed from blogger to magazine (Wired) to big company (IBM) to Government Agency (Patent Office) to wiki (the world). It will be interesting to see whether this is successful or not, but I think it's a sign of things to come.

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