The Peer-to-Patent projects are designed to test whether an open community of reviewers can effectively locate prior art that might not otherwise be located by the patent office during a typical examination.
In Australia, QUT operates the web site http://www.peertopatent.org.au/, which provides an interactive web-based forum which allows self-selecting members of the public to review participating patent applications and submit relevant prior art references. Applicants must volunteer their applications to the program, and in Australia the mechanism for submission of any prior art references is provided by section 27 of the Australian Patents Act 1990, which allows any person to give the Patent Office notice of matters that may affect the validity of a patent. The section 27 submission in the Peer-to-Patent program is made by QUT, once the public review period for a particular application has concluded.
The initial community review phase of the program has now been completed. As announced by IP Australia:
In all, 31 pending patent applications were put forward voluntarily by participating applicants and made available for review on the Peer-to-Patent Australia website for a period of 90 days. Between December 2009 and June 2010, the community of 129 reviewers generated 106 prior art references in response to the participating patent applications. Those prior art references are now being considered by IP Australia’s patent examiners as part of the formal examination process.As a side note, in our own practice Patentology has actually been involved in the prosecution of one of those 31 applications, which makes us a little special, in the scheme of things! In that case, a single prior art reference was identified by a public participant, which was not particularly relevant to the claims and subsequently not relied upon by the Examiner.
The project will now undergo a six month evaluation, during which both IP Australia and QUT will evaluate the pilot’s success. On the basis of the above figures, however, it is not clear that any solid conclusions are likely to be drawn, due to the small sample size. Nonetheless, the results of the pilot are due to be announced in December 2010.