USPTO Wiki-fies Patents, Pooh-poohs P2P
The US Patent and Trademark Office is swamped, so they’re going the Digg.com route. Embarking on a patent review pilot project that will allow the online public to comment on patent applications, the USPTO is hoping the experts of the world will share the load.
The USPTO is not, however, that keen on P2P.
The Washington Post reports that the pilot program to start this spring is actually quite Wikipedia-esque with Digg.com-ian highlights (Seriously, you can make up any kind of word you like in this digirevolution). The community will be able to score "the most respected comments," pushing them to the top of the application.
"For the first time in history, it allows the patent-office examiners to open up their cubicles and get access to a whole world of technical experts," WaPo quotes IBM’s David J. Kappos as saying.
A big part of the reason for webtwopointohifying the patent application process is the sheer number of applications being filed these days. The USPTO’s 4,000 examiners stacked up 332,000 applications last year. And they’re just sick of it.
It won’t be an automatic process. Companies or parties submitting applications have to agree to let the Internet review the applications. But anonymity is not allowed in this process, names and credentials are required for commenting, and experts will be rated according to a kind of reputation system. Microsoft, Intel, HP, and Oracle all will add their applications to the initial 250 in the pile.
While this is a major step forward into the 21st Century for the government agency, they don’t want you to think all forms of this new digitized promiscuity are acceptable. In fact, some are still quite the abomination. Take peer-to-peer, for example, which by its very nomenclature sounds like a venereal contagion tragedy waiting to happen.
“Computer programs that can cause unintended filesharing contribute to copyright infringement, and they threaten the security of personal, corporate, and governmental data,” said Jon Dudas, under secretary of commerce for intellectual property—the Bush Administration’s point person on copyright policy.
In fact, p2p goes beyond the penicillin-cured scourges afflicting copyright holders. It’s become a matter of national security. A new report singles out KaZaA, LimeWire, BearShare, eDonkey and Morpheus as file-sharing programs that could cause unintentional leakage of files.
The USPTO’s biggest concern is sensitive government data. The report is said to show that inadvertent sharing has had severe consequences for governments. “There are documented incidents of P2P file sharing where Department of Defense sensitive documents have been found on non-US computers with no protection against hostile intelligence,” it reads.
“A decade ago, no one would have thought that copyright infringement could threaten personal or national security,” said Dudas. “Today, that threat is a reality; we need to understand its causes and find solutions.”