Crowdsourcing Patent Information
The difficulty for patent holders to be confident that there is no prior art invalidating their patents inhibits holders of patents engaging in expensive litigation to defend their intellectual property and the difficulty of scouring the world for prior art increases the risk that patents will be granted unaware of prior art. In the US the America Invents Act has opened up the US patents process to challenges on whether there is prior art ahead of the granting of patents. Now, according to a post on the Stackoverflow website, the USPTO have partnered with Stackoverflow to set up a community website, AskPatents.com, for people interested in patents, with the identification of prior art in applications one of its objectives. The most successful Stackoverflow sites support information technology, allowing programmers to share knowledge, so can be seen as being fora within communities of practice. The description of AskPatents seems to go beyond this, with an element of crowdsourcing evidence of prior art. As with other Stackoverflow sites, users can gain badges by engaging with the site, so there is an element of gamification in the way AskPatents is designed. AskPatents already has over 1000 users, which suggests that there is a community of people interested in the patent application process.