As part of the Technology Blueprint published by the government in November 2010, David Cameron announced that the UKIPO would trial a peer-to-patent review project.
During the six month trial, two hundred patent applications in the field of computer technology will be uploaded to www.peertopatent.org.uk and made available for comment by the public. The first twenty applications were uploaded on 1 June 2011, and further applications are due to appear on a weekly basis.
Each patent application will be open for comment by registered users for three months. During this time, reviewers can join a discussion on the application, upload relevant prior art, follow an application of interest, or invite others to view it. At the end of the three month period, the application will be closed to comments and a report based on the submitted comments will be prepared. Copies of this report will be sent to both the applicant and the examiner responsible for the case. The examiner can then make use of the extra information during examination of the application.
Though it has always been possible to file third party observations, raising issues of patentability regarding a particular application, peer-to-patent makes this process easier and more accessible. This should give the UKIPO access to a wider body of knowledge when deciding whether or not to grant a patent, and allow inventions already known in the wider community to be filtered out more easily.
Peer-to-patent systems have already been trialled in a number of countries, most notably in the USA, Australia and Japan. The peer-to-patent system being piloted in the UK is very similar to those run elsewhere, but with the addition that the UKIPO Search Report will also be available for users to view. This will enable users to see what documents are considered relevant by the examiner.
The idea behind the peer to patent system is to improve the quality of patents which are being granted, particularly where examiners do not have access to all of the potentially useful information that they need. It provides both an additional resource for patent examiners, and gives experts in the relevant fields a way to contribute to the examination process.
Patents granted through this process will have undergone a more rigorous examination, and as a result it is hoped that they will be stronger. Ultimately, this will give businesses better protection for their ideas and products.
The trial will run until 31 December 2011.
2 June 2011