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To read comments to this article, go here
The Peer to Patent Project Has Begun - 5 patents listed
Sunday, June 17 2007 @ 08:15 AM EDT

Good morning, everyone. Are you ready to work? The first patent applications we are invited to try to disqualify by looking for prior art have been posted on the Peer to Patent Project website. This is the project working to provide the USPTO with information about prior art during the application process. It's an experiment, and it's historic. It's never been tried before, to let the public provide input into the application process. The USPTO wants to find out if the public can be helpful in finding prior art. Like, totally. I *know* you can, from doing Groklaw. This is right up your alley, if you choose to do it.

Here is the list of the patent applications:

You'll remember we published an article on what constitutes prior art, if you would like to review in more detail. And PubPat has tutorials as well. And now Peer to Patent has some too, including one I did, and if you stay on that first page, audio will begin explaining how to get started. From Groklaw's perspective, you can also just leave comments here with what you find, and I'll input it into the Peer to Patent system. Or feel free to do it yourself, as you please, if you've registered there. They have an email system to notify you if new applications are listed. If you want to help, you surely can.

Unless you *want* a patent on "providing status of a process" to issue. Up to you.

We are actually still working on the real video in which I address some of the questions I know many of you have about this project. The deadline got here before we were done, so they threw that video up, but another one is in the works in which I explain why I think this is worth doing. The real solution is for software and patents to get a divorce, and someday the US Supreme Court may address that, but in the meantime, real harm is being done because the USPTO doesn't know what you know. The Tim O'Reilly video explains a bit about the USPTO difficulties and why they are asking for help. Specifically, from our perspective, I would add that a large part of the problem is that there is no FOSS prior art database, although the Linux Foundation is working on one as we speak. So when patent applications are filed, the USPTO examiners have nowhere to look to see if there is any FOSS prior art. At the moment, the only such searchable database is in your brains. I also think this is worth doing because it's training, free training in prior art searching, and these days, I'm a-thinking that might come in handy. And I don't believe in security by obscurity.

What is prior art?

In a nutshell, prior art in a legal sense can be any prior invention, if anyone did it before this applicant, or practiced it publicly, or wrote about it in a published source, or sold it, or patented it in another country. Here's a clear definition:

Prior Art - "what went before" - publications, earlier patents, public use or sale - anything which is relevant to the patentability of an invention because it shows that the invention was known before the applicant invented it.

What the USPTO is also looking for is whether or not the application is sufficiently new and nonobvious to a person of ordinary skill in the art to qualify for a patent under current law. Trust me when I tell you that the USPTO has no clue when it comes to FOSS prior art. If you could have blocked Amazon's One-Click patent application so it never issued, would you have?

So what is the first step? Read the claims for the applications that interest you, and then try to think of and then find whatever you know was already out there that predates this application and that matches the claims as precisely as possible. If you think it's obvious, say why with specificity. These are patent applications, not patents, so triple damages for looking at them do not apply, I'm told. I'm the cautious type, so if I worked for a company that might be in an area related to these applications, before I participated, I'd speak to a lawyer to verify.

If you don't want to turn on Javascript to watch the videos on the Peer to Patent site, just view source on the page that lists them all, find the video url and add it to this: http://www.peertopatent.org/ -- so, for example, if you wanted to view the first one, add video/manny/VideoPlayer.html to the url, so you get http://www.peertopatent.org/ video/manny/VideoPlayer.html . And as soon as mine is ready, I'll let you know.

Credits:

The marvelous stick figure gif in the video of mine up there now, illustrating the current state of the USPTO, is from JoePixel.com and the special graphics are by our own Jill C. Carpenter. The music is "My Life Changed" which you can read about here. Thank you, Cora Beth. Thank you, JoePixel and thank you, Jill. And thank you to Francois Schnell for his charming Tux and GNU photos! And thank you to Larry Lessig, for inventing Creative Commons licenses. And most especially thank you to Groklawers, for helping me with your ideas on how to do a video.


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