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Patent applications to be peer reviewed?

UKPO considers Gowers recommendations

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The UK Patent Office is considering how it might implement some of the recommendations of the Gowers Review of intellectual property law in the UK. One of the suggestions Gowers made in the report was that the patent authorities should evaluate how peer review might improve the patent checking process.

Specifically, recommendation 23 says: "The Patent Office should conduct a pilot of Beth Noveck's Community Patent Review in 2007 in the UK to determine whether this would have a positive impact on the quality of the patent stock."

It refers to a paper published by Professor Beth Noveck earlier this year, in which the new York Law school professor sets out recommendations for peer review of US patent applications. She suggests that before a patent application is presented to patent examiners, it should first be published for the wider community to review.

Gowers suggests that a collaborative publishing technology such as a wiki might be used to facilitate this process. It could collect data on possible prior art, for example, which would considerably ease the workload of the average patent examiner, making the review of patent applications much more rigourous.

A spokesman for the patent office said that there was no time frame for the plan as yet, but that the evaluation would be officially allocated a team in the new year, ZDNet reports.

The plans were welcomed by the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, which runs a similar project itself, outside of the official patent examination process. However, the group questioned where the motivation for the community to examine patents would come from, given the rather dry and technical nature of the material. ®

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