Peer to Patent: Government Using Social Networking

Peer to Patent is Washington's first social networking initiative, using a network of volunteers to help figure out if an invention deserves to be patented. The volunteers, normally scientists and technologies, connect with patent examiners, and like Obama says, this "taps the intelligence" of the American public.

A few words about how it works:

Peertopatent.org solicits public volunteers to submit pertinent info, generally any "prior art" related to the invention.

Volunteers select themselves, which in practice works well.

The patent examiner works with the self-selected team; for example, they'd research the invention, uploading relevant publications and suggestions for further research for use by the patent examiner. Others in the team might comment on the relevance of submitted pieces of prior art.

Following online discussion, each team vets the submissions made by its members. The group votes on which 10 submissions are most relevant, and those are then forwarded to the Patent Office.

Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, has endorsed Peer to Patent, and adds that it can be generalized to a lot of government:

Pressing a theme popular with Barack Obama's tech surrogates, Schmidt also waxed enthusiastic about the power of network technology to create a more transparent and participatory politics. "Government has not embraced, generically, the tools we all use every day," said Schmidt. "It's time." Pointing to the Patent Office’s Peer-to-Patent program for crowdsourcing patent application analysis, Schmidt asked "why is that not true of every branch of government?" The same "police of the Internet" who debunked political rumors during the campaign could be turned on key legislative and regulatory issues. "A lot of people care passionately about them," joked Schmidt, "and they obviously have a lot of free time."