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Archived updates for Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Peer-to-Patent Program Expands to Business Methods; Shortened Examination Times for Submitted Applications

The US Patent and Trademark Office has announced the extension of the Peer-to-Patent pilot for another year as well as its expansion to include pending patent applications for Business Methods (Class 705).

The pilot was initially restricted to patent applications in the computer-related arts (those classified in Technology Center 2100). Technical experts in the computer and business methods-related arts registering with the Web site may now eventually be able to review and submit information for up to 400 published patent applications, up from 250 as originally announced. No more than 25 separate applications will be allowed from any one person or organization, up from 15 in the original announcement. There are currently only 21 published applications available for review.

According to the USPTO,

Applicants agree to have their patent applications posted for up to four months (but no less than three months) on the Web site. Expert volunteers from the public then discuss the applications and submit prior art they think might be relevant to determining if an invention is new and non-obvious. The prior art submission is limited to 10 references.

So far, the pilot’s first 31 applications have been examined. More than half of the examiners who examined an application in the Peer Review Pilot so far thought the prior art submitted by the peers was helpful during examination. More than one-third of the examiners used peer-supplied prior art in the first action on the merits. Nearly 75 percent of the participating examiners said they believed the program would be useful if it were incorporated into regular Office practice.

For this pilot, applications are assigned to an examiner for examination as soon as a submission is received from the Web site. This shortens considerably the time it normally takes from filing an application to a first action on the merits in the areas where the pilot is occurring.

For further information on the program and to review the Official Gazette notice, visit [which as of this writing has yet to be updated with the latest notice].

According to the USPTO's Official Gazette for July 15, 2008, the average filing date for applications receiving a first Office Action during the last three months in Technology Center 3620 for Electronic Commerce was July 28, 2003, almost five years ago. Last year's pendency to first action in Class 705 was 44 months, with pendency to issue/abandonment being 54 months. Allowance rates were only 20%.
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