Open, collaborative effort to improve US patents

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Late last year, I wrote about the EFF’s project to leverage the Patent Office’s new Preissuance Submissions procedure to promote open 3D printing technology. Here we are, several months later, and the fight for open 3D printing continues. Now, the EFF has partnered with Ask Patents to facilitate crowdsourcing of prior art searches for various 3D printing-related patent applications.

At first, I didn’t see anything remarkable about this partnership. However, as I delved a little deeper, things got a little more interesting. First off, Ask Patents is part of a group of open-content websites called Stack Exchange which includes over 100 "question and answer sites on diverse topics from software programming to cooking to photography and gaming." But, the more interesting tidbit—at least to me—came from the Stack Exchange blog, where they claim that former Patent Office Director, David Kappos, came to their office to encourage them to open a Stack Exchange site dedicated to generating prior art to help patent examiners do their jobs. 

To me, overtures like these from Kappos underscore the efforts that the Patent Office is making to improve the patent system in the U.S. I think it’s worth highlighting that in soliciting Stack Exchange, Kappos is effectively endorsing an open, collaborative approach to help improve the patent system. Also of interest is that Stack Exchange has been integrated with Google Patent Search so that all patent applications on Google will include a link to discussion on Stack Exchange (presumably on the patent specific Ask Patents site).

Given Director Kappos’s encouragement and in view of the Google integration, the EFF’s partnership with Ask Patents makes a lot of sense.

Jared Engstrom is senior patent counsel at Red Hat, where he runs the internal patent development program. Prior to joining Red Hat, he was a patent counsel at Hewlett-Packard; he also spent several years as a patent attorney at the law firm of Blakely Sokoloff Taylor & Zafman. Jared graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

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