The number of U.S. patents issued last year that contain one or more references to Wikipedia articles totalled 809, a 59 percent jump from 2008. Several years ago the USPTO banned patent examiners from using Wikipedia as a source of information for determining patentability of inventions. However, examiners and applicants continue to cite it. Wikipedia articles represent only a fraction of interet resources cited in patents. More than 17,000 U.S. patents issued last year have one or more cited references containing a URL.
Michael, this is fascinating. How do you think this policy will evolve in the future? As far as I can tell, as long as there is a sure way for examiners to capture the information they are trying to use for a rejection, and prove it was online when it needed to be (the tricky part), the fact that it was published in a wiki shouldn't prevent the material from being relevant to a patent examination. What are your thoughts?
I agree. I think Wikipedia and online materials in general, for all their faults, should be considered legitimate prior art. After all, patent examiners and attorneys cite all kinds of ephemeral print publications, such as product catalogues, equipment manuals, etc. I think this wiki ban is another reactionary policy by an organization that has a hard time keeping up with change. When I was training new patent examiners in the 1990s, use of the internet was strictly controlled and monitored. Examiners were actively discouraged from using it for research. (Although I think that policy reflected management's mistrust of its employees and its view that casual internet surfing would hurt productivity.)
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