Tomorrow, April 10, 2014, the US Patent and Trademark Office is hosting a roundtable event seeking comments from the public regarding the use of “crowdsourcing” and third-party submissions to identify relevant prior art.  The intent of this public outreach is to enhance the quality of issued patents, especially software patents.

“Crowdsourcing” refers to the practice of openly seeking contributions from a large group of non-traditional employees, typically over the Internet.  Applied in the context of the patent examination process, crowdsourcing may provide a low cost option to increase patent quality by allowing technically sophisticated third-parties to review applications and provide prior art.  This is particularly true in the software arts where some of the most relevant technical information may not be readily available to patent examiners.  On the other hand, the examination process may be bogged-down with an influx of non-relevant or cumulative art unless efficient systems are established to control and streamline the process.

The PTO also is accepting written comments from any member of the public on these issues.  Specifically, the PTO is seeking comments on the following six points:

  1. How can the Office leverage the collective knowledge available via crowdsourcing to provide   an examiner with relevant prior art?
  2. What suggestions do you have for the Office to encourage more third-party submissions from the scientific and technical community via crowdsourcing activities?
  3. Aside from encouraging more third-party submissions, what are other ways the Office can leverage crowdsourcing to get relevant information from experts in the scientific and technical community to the examiner?
  4. How can the Office encourage more third-party participation while ensuring that no protest or other form of pre-issuance opposition to the grant of a patent on an application is initiated after publication of the application?
  5. What, if anything, is preventing you from submitting prior art as part of a third-party submission?
  6. What other ideas do you have to ensure examiners have the most relevant prior art in front of them during examination?

You can find additional information about the PTO’s crowdsourcing roundtable at

Written comments must be submitted by email to [email protected] by April 25, 2014.