It’s fitting that the word “patent” is only one letter away from the word “patient,” since the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is currently so backlogged that it can take up to four years for a patent to be processed. The problem, according to Kiki Namikas writing for California Magazine, is that patent system has been unable to adapt to changing technology. For example, what used to be easily categorized as an “invention” is no longer so straightforward. “Today it is possible to patent business methods, software, genetically modified life forms, education methods, and surgical techniques,” Haas professor of economics Richard Gilbert told California. Trying to navigate this maze of technology, the U.S. patent office continues to fall further behind.
One website is trying to help the system catch up using a community-based approach. WikiPatents allows patent owners, inventors, patent examiners, and anyone else interested to comment and vote on current and pending patents. Using the community’s collaborative efforts, the website is designed to provide “transparency to the patent system—indicating to the public, with greater visibility, the true and proper scope of each patent.”