USPTO: Improving Patent Quality with Swarm Intelligence

Since 2009, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) offers the Peer To Patent project – a historic initiative that opens the patent examination process to public participation for the first time. Peer to Patent is an online system that aims to improve the quality of issued patents by enabling the public to supply the USPTO with information relevant to assessing the claims of pending patent applications.

The pilot project connects an open network for community input to the legal decision-making process. The community supplies information and research based on its expertise. The patent examiner makes the final determination on the basis of legal standards. This process combines the democracy of open participation with the legitimacy and effectiveness of administrative decision making.

Peer-to-Patent involves
1) review and discussion of posted patent applications,
2) research to locate prior art references,
3) uploading prior art references relevant to the claims,
4) annotating and evaluating submitted prior art, and
5) top ten references, along with commentary, forwarded to the USPTO.

The goal of the pilots is to prove that organized public participation can improve the quality of issued patents.

Peer To Patent is largely a student driven project. While the core student group is part of New York Law School’s Center for Patent Innovations, USPTO encourages and invites student participation from other law schools. To date the project has enjoyed participant from Albany School of Law, University of California – Berkeley Law, and Duke Law, but USPTO is constantly working on further outreach. Student fellows assist in recruiting peer reviewers, facilitating the review of patent applications, reviewing applications and suggesting prior art, and preparing information disclosure statements for submission to the USPTO. Student fellows have found that they learn a great deal about the patent process from their involvement in the project.

Further information can be found here.

If you are a student or law professor and want to get involved, please contact the project at