On October 19, 2010, the USPTO, in collaboration with the New York Law School’s Center for Patent Innovations, announced the upcoming launch of a second Peer to Patent pilot program. Scheduled to commence next Monday, October 25, 2010, the Peer to Patent program expands upon the previous program.
The original Peer to Patent program, which began in June 2007, introduced public participation to the patent examination process. Inventors could opt to post their application on the website www.peertopatent.org, whereupon volunteer technical and scientific experts could comment or submit relevant prior art. Following the review period, the prior art is then sent to the USPTO for consideration during prosecution.
The second Peer to Patent program expands upon the eligible subject matter of the earlier program, which was limited to software and business methods. For the second Peer to Pilot program, eligible subject matter now includes biotechnology, bioinformatics, telecommunications and speech recognition.
The Peer to Patent program seeks to reduce examination time and increase patent quality. However, the success of this program is greatly limited by the low number of applications volunteered for review (only 189 applications were reviewed in the first pilot program from 2007-2009). Whether expansion of the subject matter eligible for the Peer to Patent program increases its effectiveness remains to be seen. But unless participation in the Peer to Patent program increases exponentially, it’s unlikely that this program will make any significant steps towards achieving its goals.