The Patent and Trademark Office has teamed up with Cisco Systems Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create an online archive about inventions aimed at boosting U.S. patent quality.
The “Prior Art Archive,” hosted by MIT’s Media Lab, is open to patent office examiners and anyone who might want to submit published writing, patents, information about products in commercial use, and other materials, known as prior art, Cisco and MIT said.
Agency director Andrei Iancu has focused on improving patent quality since taking the reins last February. Patent examiners search prior art to ensure inventions described in patent applications are novel enough to warrant a patent.
“By collecting various non-patent literature in one database, and making it searchable and readily available to the entire industry, the Prior Art Archive will help our examiners, and the public, to identify additional prior art upfront, during the examination process,” Iancu said in an emailed statement. “This will help increase the quality of examination and the reliability of the patent grant.”
Users can search the archive using Google Patents technology that automatically categorizes documents with appropriate patent office codes, Google said.
The patent office is at the center of a running debate over the strength of U.S. patents. Technology companies frequently challenge issued patents in an administrative review process. Patent owners, including biotech and pharmaceutical companies, complain those reviews kill patents too frequently.
An array of tech heavyweights, including Cisco, AT&T Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc., Intel Corp., Micorosft Corp., Salesforce.com, Inc. and Dell are submitting millions of prior art documents to the archive, Cisco General Counsel Mark Chandler told Bloomberg Law.
“We’re bringing together American industry across different sectors to put background information at the fingertips of the patent office,” Chandler said.
Patent applicants may cite prior inventions to tell the patent office how their inventions differ from or improve existing technologies.
It’s a challenge for patent examiners to find all the prior art out there, Kate Darling, a Media Lab research specialist, told Bloomberg Law.”This archive really can help individuals who don’t have any clout to to reach patent examiners to get their work in front of them and to block bad patents from being issued,” she said.