Projectskeyboard_arrow_rightPeer to Patent

Peer to Patent

Can crowdsourcing improve the quality of patent applications?

Project Websitelink
    Governance Area
  • National Governance
  • Institution Type
  • Public Sector
  • Innovative Capability
  • Collective Intelligence Crowdsourcing
  • Product Category
  • platform


The Peer To Patent project is an initiative that seeks to assist patent offices in improving patent quality by gathering public input in a structured, productive manner. Peer To Patent is the first social-software project directly linked to decision-making by the federal government. An initial pilot project in collaboration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) was completed June 15, 2009. That pilot examined more than 220 patent applications in the fields of software and business methods. The Peer To Patent project has issued two anniversary reports from the initial pilot. Following the conclusion of the initial pilot the USPTO undertook an evaluation of Peer To Patent assisted by students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. That evaluation concluded that the program had merit and should be continued. On October 19, 2010, the USPTO and New York Law School jointly announced a new pilot program commencing October 25, 2010, and continuing through September 30, 2011 (with the review period extending through December 31, 2011). This new pilot included patent applications covering subject matter included in the initial pilot, it also included telecommunications, speech recognition, translation, biotechnology, bioinformatics and biopharmaceuticals.


United States
United Kingdom


New York Law School
MacArthur Foundation
Red Hat


Developed and run by the New York Law School Institute for Information Law and Policy (the precursor to the GovLab @ NYU), Peer To Patent is a historic initiative by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that opens the patent examination process to public participation for the first time. Peer to Patent is an online system that aims to improve the quality of issued patents by enabling the public to supply the USPTO with information relevant to assessing the claims of pending patent applications.This pilot project connects an open network for community input to the legal decision-making process. The community supplies information and research based on its expertise. The patent examiner makes the final determination on the basis of legal standards. This process combines the democracy of open participation with the legitimacy and effectiveness of administrative decision making.

Results & Impact

Peer to Patent was the first expert network used in government. It catalyzed similar pilot projects including UK Intellectual Property Office, IP Australia, the Japan Patent Office, and the Korean Intellectual Property Office and led, eventually, to a relaxation of the rules against third party protests against pending patent applications. Those policy changes became enshrined in law in the America Invents Acts (2011). In 2011, New York Law School recommended that Stack Exchange use its Q&A platform, Stack Overflow, to run citizen engagement in patent examination and Ask Patents was established: Subsequently, the White House named a Presidential Innovation Fellow in 2014-15 to continue the project and ensure that citizen engagement would become part of mainstream patent practice at the USPTO. That Fellow - Christopher Wong - joined the GovLab in 2015. This pathbreaking citizen participation initiative, which demonstrated that, if asked, people would participate in ways that could help civil servants make a better informed decision, was the inspiration for the White House Open Government Initiative, launched during the first term of the Obama Presidency in 2009.


Beth Simone Noveck

Christopher Wong