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Monday, September 24, 2007

Towards a better IP regime

Despite the increase in Intellectual Property (IP) disputes beyond national borders, there are no established global rules on international jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. This situation has resulted from weak investigative processes adopted by authority granting the IPR, that blames it upon the multitude of applications that gets lodged with it every day. Poor archival and retrieval systems also complicate the process all the more.

Currently, the process to grant patents begins when an application, describing the invention in painstaking detail, is submitted to the patent examiner, who conducts a search for “prior art”. Prior art can be any previous evidence of an invention: an academic article, schematic, photograph, data set, or nearly anything that demonstrates a similar concept. Searches for prior art must be as exhaustive as possible. If prior art is missed, the patent authority risks approving spurious patents, leading to lawsuits and requests for post-grant examinations.

A clear testimony to the inadequacy of investigation (of existence of “prior art”) process preceding grant of IP rights have been clearly exposed by Peter Calveley’s questioning the USPTO’s grant of Amazon’s infamous “one-click” patent.

Advancements in information technology have been successfully decimating the problems presented by bulk data to a significant extent. On that score, I’ve always argued that the magnitude of problems faced by authorities granting IP does not lean on bulkiness of data or its archiving / retrieval processes, as much as it should be in its analytics and interpretation of available (prior art) data.

A new website called Peer-to-Patent intends to harness the power of online collaboration to streamline patent review. By creating a community around each application, the site facilitates public discussion and lets people upload relevant information. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is currently involved in a limited trial of Peer-to-Patent, with the hope that it will bring openness and transparency to a review process that was previously limited to communication between the applicant and the examiner vetting the patent.

How long before we see one in India? Couldn’t we use something like that ? You bet.

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