[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 218 (Wednesday, November 12, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 67159-67161]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-26835]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

United States Patent and Trademark Office

[Docket No. PTO-P-2014-0013]


Request for Comments and Notice of Roundtable on USPTO Use of 
Crowdsourcing To Identify Relevant Prior Art

AGENCY: United States Patent and Trademark Office, Commerce.

ACTION: Notice of public meeting; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is 
announcing a December 2, 2014 roundtable and requesting written 
comments on USPTO use of crowdsourcing to identify relevant prior art. 
Members of the public are invited to participate at the roundtable. On 
February 20, 2014, the White House issued a series of executive actions 
including crowdsourcing prior art as a means to strengthen patent 
quality. The roundtable will address the executive action by exploring: 
(1) How the USPTO can utilize crowdsourcing tools to obtain relevant 
prior art in order to enhance the quality of examination and issued 
patents; and (2) ways the USPTO can leverage existing private sector 
solutions for the electronic receipt and hosting of crowdsourced 
materials as a means to provide prior art to examiners.

DATES: Event Date: The roundtable will be held on December 2, 2014, 
beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST), and ending at 5 p.m. 
EST.
    Roundtable Registration Deadline: Registration to attend the 
roundtable in person or via webcast is required by November 25, 2014. 
Additionally, requests to participate in the roundtable as a speaker 
must be submitted in writing no later than November 18, 2014. See the 
``Event Registration Information'' section of this notice for 
additional details on how to register and how to request to present as 
a speaker.
    Written Comment Submission Deadline: Any member of the public, 
whether attending the roundtable or not, may submit written comments on 
any of the issues identified in part II of the SUPPLEMENTARY 
INFORMATION section of this notice for consideration by the USPTO. 
Written comments must be received on or before December 9, 2014, to 
ensure consideration.

ADDRESSES: Event Address: The roundtable will be held in the Moot Court 
Room, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, 55 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 
10003.
    Addresses for Written Comments: Written comments should be sent by 
electronic mail addressed to [email protected]. 
Comments also may be submitted by postal mail addressed to: Mail Stop 
Comments--Patents, Commissioner for Patents, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, 
VA 22313-1450, marked to the attention of Jack Harvey, Director, 
Technology Center 2800. Although comments may be submitted by postal 
mail, the Office prefers to receive comments by electronic mail.
    Comments will be available for public inspection via the USPTO's 
Internet Web site at http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/crowdsourcing_roundtable_20141202.jsp, and at the Office of the 
Commissioner for Patents, located in Madison East, Tenth Floor, 600 
Dulany Street, Alexandria, VA 22314, upon request. Because comments 
will be available for public inspection,

[[Page 67160]]

information that is not desired to be made public, such as an address 
or phone number, should not be included in the comments.
    Event Registration Information: To register to attend or request to 
present as a speaker, please send an email message to 
CrowdsourcingRoundta[email protected] and provide the following 
information: (1) Your name, title, company or organization (if 
applicable), address, phone number, and email address; (2) whether you 
wish to attend in person or via webcast; and (3) whether you wish to 
make an oral presentation at the roundtable and, if so, which topics 
identified in part II of the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this 
notice will be addressed and the approximate desired length of your 
presentation. Each attendee, even if from the same organization, must 
register separately.
    Due to time constraints, the USPTO may not be able to accommodate 
all persons who wish to make a presentation. However, the USPTO will 
attempt to accommodate as many persons as possible who wish to make a 
presentation within the time constraints. After reviewing the speaker 
requests and the information regarding the presentations provided in 
the requests, the USPTO will contact each speaker prior to the event 
with the amount of time available and the approximate time that the 
speaker's presentation is scheduled to begin. The amount of time 
available for each presentation may be limited to ensure that all 
persons selected to speak will have a meaningful opportunity to do so. 
Speakers who opt to employ slides as part of their presentation must 
send final electronic copies of the slides in Microsoft PowerPoint to 
[email protected] by November 25, 2014, so that the 
slides can be displayed at the roundtable. Additionally, the USPTO will 
provide an opportunity for persons in the audience not previously 
selected as speakers to speak at the roundtable without a formal 
presentation.
    For more information on the roundtable, including webcast access 
instructions, agenda and a list of speakers, please visit http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/crowdsourcing_roundtable_20141202.jsp.
    If special accommodations due to a disability are needed, please 
inform the contact person(s) identified below.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Requests for additional information 
should be directed to the attention of Jack Harvey, Director, 
Technology Center 2800, by telephone at 571-272-8004, or by email to 
[email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

I. Background

    On February 20, 2014, the White House issued a series of executive 
actions including crowdsourcing prior art as a means to strengthen 
patent quality. Information on the White House executive actions is 
available at http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/executive_actions.jsp. In response to the executive actions and 
feedback received in the context of the Software Partnership, the USPTO 
hosted a roundtable on April 10, 2014, focused on the use of 
crowdsourcing and third-party preissuance submissions to identify 
relevant prior art. See Request for Comments and Notice of Roundtable 
Event on the Use of Crowdsourcing and Third-Party Preissuance 
Submissions To Identify Relevant Prior Art, 79 FR 15319 (March 19, 
2014).
    The roundtable featured both USPTO and public presentations, along 
with a question and answer session to solicit public input on the 
current third-party submission process and ways the USPTO can use 
crowdsourcing to enhance the quality of examination and issued patents. 
The USPTO also received written comments on the topics that were 
identified in the March 19, 2014 notice and discussed at the April 10, 
2014 roundtable. Details about the roundtable, as well as the webcast 
recording and written comments received are available at http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/crowdsourcing_roundtable_04-2014.jsp.

II. USPTO Use of Crowdsourcing Tools To Identify Relevant Prior Art

    Based on the feedback the USPTO received responsive to the March 
19, 2014 notice and April 10, 2014 roundtable, the USPTO has decided to 
further explore the use of crowdsourcing tools to enhance the quality 
of patent examination and issued patents. To that end, the USPTO is 
seeking public input on the extent to which it can utilize 
crowdsourcing tools to obtain relevant prior art. Crowdsourcing 
involves leveraging the knowledge of a large group of people, such as 
from an online community, to obtain needed information.
    The USPTO recognizes that any use of crowdsourcing tools must 
comply with applicable patent laws, regulations and procedures. For 
example, any USPTO crowdsourcing activities would need to preserve the 
ex parte nature of patent examination and be in accordance with the 
provisions of 35 U.S.C. 122(c). That statutory provision provides that 
``[t]he Director shall establish appropriate procedures to ensure that 
no protest or other form of pre-issuance opposition to the grant of a 
patent on an application may be initiated after publication of the 
application without the express written consent of the applicant.''
    The USPTO seeks input from the public at the roundtable and/or via 
written comments on the following issues:
    1. In what ways can the USPTO utilize crowdsourcing to identify 
relevant prior art that would be available for use in the examination 
of published applications while maintaining the ex parte nature of 
patent examination? Some examples of how the public traditionally uses 
crowdsourcing include: passively monitoring discussions (thread) 
between parties on crowdsourcing Web sites, and posting a question on a 
crowdsourcing Web site and viewing responses to the posted question.
    2. If the USPTO were to post a question relating to the technology 
of a published application on a crowdsourcing Web site, what follow-up 
communications, if any, could someone from the USPTO have with parties 
on the Web site? Some examples of how the public traditionally engages 
in follow-up communications on crowdsourcing Web sites include: A 
conversation on the thread with a particular party who responded to the 
posted question to clarify information the party provided, and a 
conversation on the thread with a particular party who responded to the 
initial posting to request additional information.
    3. What appropriate precautions, if any, could the USPTO employ to 
ensure that the use of crowdsourcing tools does not encourage a protest 
or other form of preissuance opposition to the grant of a patent? (See 
35 U.S.C. 122(c).)
    4. If the USPTO cites in an application prior art obtained via 
crowdsourcing tools, to what extent, if any, should the USPTO document 
the crowdsourcing activities used to identify the prior art?
    5. For each published patent application, if the USPTO gave the 
patent applicant the option to opt-in or opt-out of the USPTO's use of 
crowdsourcing, would applicants choose to participate in the 
crowdsourcing program? What considerations would inform the applicant's 
decision?

[[Page 67161]]

III. Request for Information on Electronic Receipt and Hosting of 
Crowdsourced Prior Art

    The USPTO wants to ensure that the best prior art is available to 
the examiner during examination. Because this information often resides 
with the technical and scientific community, crowdsourcing may be a 
promising way to uncover hard-to-find prior art, especially non-patent 
literature. A growing number of organizations from a wide range of 
industries have expressed a willingness to help the USPTO with its 
crowdsourcing efforts by pledging to provide public product 
documentation, educational materials, and other forms of non-patent 
literature.
    Accordingly, the USPTO issued a Request for Information (RFI) 
titled ``Crowdsourced Non-Patent Literature Hosting'' (Solicitation 
Number: PTOHMB201501), on October 9, 2014, seeking information from 
qualified firms capable of electronically receiving and potentially 
hosting the materials that have been pledged to the USPTO through the 
above-described crowdsourcing effort. Detailed information on the RFI 
is available at http://www.uspto.gov/about/vendor_info/current_acquisitions/index.jsp.
    At the roundtable, the USPTO seeks to build on information received 
in response to the RFI to further explore ways the USPTO can leverage 
existing private sector solutions for the electronic receipt and 
hosting of crowdsourced materials as a means to provide prior art to 
examiners. Any formal responses to the RFI must be submitted in writing 
in accordance with the instructions set forth therein and not as 
written comments in response to this notice. After the close of the RFI 
comment period, information about the roundtable discussion on the RFI 
will be made available at http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/crowdsourcing_roundtable_20141202.jsp.

    Dated: November 6, 2014.
Michelle K. Lee,
Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy 
Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
[FR Doc. 2014-26835 Filed 11-10-14; 8:45 am]
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