The intellectual property development underway in the TrustTheVote Project is the essential ingredient of the publicly owned critical democracy infrastructure we're building.  So, as you can imagine, our Legal Department keeps a keen eagle eye on intellectual property developments, particularly patents as they are applied for and issue (as well as the existence of prior art and questionable ownership claims to IP involving the same.)

Last November, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced a roundtable meeting to follow-up from a request for comments earlier last year on how to improve third party submissions and crowdsourcing of prior art.  Two weeks ago, the USPTO announced the results of their December 2014 roundtable on improving prior art research and this request for comment process.

Today, after spending some time to research their findings, we are proud to report that the USPTO announced its implementation of a system that appears to be a direct result of our May 2014 written proposal to improve Third Party Submissions and Crowdsourcing of Prior Art.  In that proposal we urged the USPTO to create an automated alert system to notify via eMail any interested member of the public whenever a patent application of interest has been published.  Doing so would allow the public to immediate review the published application and prepare and file a pre-issuance submission of prior art.  This solves the problem with the past system:  too many published applications going unnoticed during the short window of time when a pre-issuance submission could be filed.

And the USPTO has done precisely that: it launched a new Patent Application Alert System as recently announced here.

Although the announcement did not expressly mention “OSET" as the originator of the idea, the USPTO does say that the idea came from the public in response to its roundtable notice.  We took a look and it does appear our submission was a key contributor to their decision.  All public comments responsive to the solicitation are available here.  In any event, the OSET Foundation was an originator of the idea (if not the sole originator).

But lest we appear to be trying to give ourselves an "atta boy" let's move beyond who should get credit.  There is a far more important point here: there was a need to improve how prior art can be tracked and the USPTO is employing a new means of crowdsourcing to do just that.  For more information on the pre-issuance program and how members of the public can participate can be found here.

To be sure, 35 USC 122(e) provides a mechanism for third parties to submit patents, published patent applications, or other printed publications of potential relevance to the examination of a patent application with a concise description of the asserted relevance of each document submitted.  This new Alert system will make that far more possible and likely to occur in the timely fashion it must -- precisely what we desire in tracking IP developments of relevance to our work.

For the TrustTheVote Project, this will be an important tool to monitor IP development as we work to ensure that publicly available, publicly owned elections technology remains just that.

We'd like to extend our deep gratitude to one of our 4 outside law Firms working with and representing the OSET Foundation in our endeavors and who kept us abreast of this development: Foley Lardner LLP, and specifically Andrew Baluch and David Ralston.