New social media website seeks to improve the patent examination process through crowdsourced Q&A, prior art submissions

A new social networking site developed with USPTO input provides a forum for subject matter experts to post questions and answers about the U.S. patent system, along with prior art that may be relevant to pending patent applications.

Ask Patents, the new site launched by StackExchange in September, allows third parties to post information about the following topics:

  • examples of prior art for a specific claim of a patent or patent application;
  • questions about patent law or the patent approval process; and
  • thoughts about how to interpret a specific patent.

According to a USPTO press release, the USPTO hopes that the site will become a forum through which third parties will submit prior art that may be relevant to examination of pending patent applications.   USPTO examiners can then check the site to see if anyone has submitted prior art that may be relevant to an application that is under review.

Based on information posted so far, the answers provided by subject matter experts appear to be very thoughtful, and off-topic questions are quickly shut down.  Building on ideas from the USPTO’s former Peer to Patent pilot program,  which sought prior art submissions for specific patent applications, the Ask Patents website allows anyone to discuss any patent or patent application.  As the site’s popularity grows, it will be interesting to see whether enough subject matter experts have time to continue the high level of interaction on the site.

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