One would assume that easier access to information worldwide that internet provides would make it easier for Patent Offices to find prior art against a patent application so as to ensure that only real inventions are passing the patent process and make it to an issued patent.
No expert can possibly have the scope, skills and capabilities and knowledge of prior art that deep, individual technical experts anywhere in the world possibly have. Patent Office officials need to understand the patent application in just a limited of hours to determine if an invention is really new and non obvious.
Most daunting of all for any Patent Office searcher is finding the prior art which could be anywhere in the world, in gigantic volume. Despite databases, easy access to information via internet, this process is still not perfect enough to prevent patents to be granted which would not have been granted if we would have the full prior art picture.
In a perfect world this would mean that all information relevant to a particular application would be at the Patent Office official finger tips when confronted with an application. This is nirvana.
In the US one of the most promising initiatives to improve the quality of the patent system by making sure that only patents are being awarded that are really new and not obvious is a pilot program “Peer-to-Patent“. Peer-to-Patent opens the patent examination process to public participation for the first time. They invite the community and especially the experts in technical fields to make the patent review process easier by providing prior art information that allows the USPTO to do a better -and more expedient – job in issuing patents.
New York Law School Professor Beth Noveck discusses Peer-to-Patent project in this You Tube video, outlining what the initiative entails.
One would only hope that this type of initiatives will be used and will help Patent offices worldwide to improve patent quality. Hopefully followed by EPO’s initiatives in this same area.