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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that a pilot program involving public review of patent applications over the Internet has helped it quickly reject claims that are obvious or not novel in more than a quarter of the pilot’s patent applications. The USPTO has issued non-final rejections of at least one claim in five out of the first 19 patent applications in the so-called Peer-to-Patent pilot program, which it launched last June with New York Law School. In Peer-to-Patent, which is touted as a way to improve the quality of final patents and expand the USPTO’s resources, participants’ patents applications are posted for up to four months on the program’s Web site , and reviewed by expert volunteers. Some of the first 19 applications came from the nation’s largest technology corporations, including: General Electric Co.; Hewlett-Packard Co; IBM Corp.: Intel Corp.; Microsoft Corp.; Red Hat Inc.; and Sun Microsystems Inc. “I’m confident these early results will help validate that this community approach can have a meaningful impact on the examination process and the quality of patents,” said IBM software engineer Steve Pearson. “Hopefully this will encourage the participation of more domain experts in this pilot program.” Besides jumping on board the pilot program, IBM also pledged to make all of its patent applications public on the USPTO Web site 18 months after filing and to spend “thousands of hours” reviewing other filers’ patent applications each year. The USPTO cited the pilot results as evidence that the online program can help it quickly collect prior art on patent claims. “We are encouraged by the initial success of the pilot, and we believe it holds potential as a source of relevant prior art,” said USPTO’s commissioner for patents John Doll.

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