Bringing Peer Review to Patents


Tougher examination of patent applications reduces anti–commons effects while reducing the frequency and costs of litigation. Modelled after open source/free software collaborations, the “Peer to Patent” initiative seeks to improve the quality of patents by developing a Web–based infrastructure whereby volunteer experts external to the PTO’s review applications, assemble prior art information, and submit the results of their collective work back to the Patent Office examiner. This paper endorses the spirit and goals of the “Peer to Patent” initiative, but questions its reliance on the open source model. A discussion of the functions of peer review, the meaning of peer, and the motivations of the reviewers in different contexts indicates that editorial peer review — not open source — can provide a more effective model for integrating peer review of patent applications into PTO practices.

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