The patent system is broken — there are too many ways to list here, really. The problems surrounding prior art are certainly among them, and a team of high profile companies and organizations are joining forces to address some of the these with the Prior Art Archive.
The database is a collaboration between MIT’s Media Lab, Google, Cisco and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, which certainly has the most to gain here. Using the MIT-hosted archive, patent applicants can find easily accessible examples of prior art and other technical information for reference.
“The patent examination process should stop patents from being issued on old or obvious technology,” MIT writes. “Unfortunately, just because technology is old doesn’t mean it is easy for a patent examiner to find. Particularly in the computer field, much prior art is in the form of old manuals, documentation, web sites, etc. that have, until now, not been readily searchable.”
Google also has a blog post detailing its own work with the archive, which mostly revolves around search. The company is also implementing AI and ML technologies to help bolster searches. “To this end,” the company writes, “we’ve recently created an open ecosystem, the Google Patents Public Datasets, to make large datasets available for empirical public policy, economics, and machine learning research.”