A few weeks ago, I had some words to say about a patent prior art search contest and even more with some Apple filings. Here is some updated information...
A few weeks ago, I wrote What were they thinking: The world is your lawyer and talked about some issues with the way in which this program was set up. I concluded with So, I give them a high mark for taking an interesting approach, but almost a zero for execution. There is no transparency in the process, and while they say The best submission is guaranteed to receive the prize. There is no indication of how or when this is established and paid.
A couple of days ago I received an email from Patexia, the company running this program. In it James McArdle talks about many of the points that I made and clarified some other issues. I would like to, and have received permission to, replicate most of that email for you here.
You made a very important point: you're right that there are some difficulties with transparency in the judging criterion. We're working on making our judging process as clear as possible, but ultimately each submission and contest is different in some way, and it's impossible to create a perfectly universal judging criteria (in part because of complexities added by 102 [novelty] vs. 103 [non-obviousness] invalidation).
To help deal with this problem, at the moment, we have the legal terms available on the contest page (you'll see one of the tabs on http://www.patexia.com/contests/charge-pump-circuit takes you directly to http://www.patexia.com/contests/charge-pump-circuit/terms, though you may need to be logged in to the site).
In addition, if you enter the contest, you will see that there is a questionnaire that you must answer as part of your submission. This questionnaire refers to the submission you're making and gives you a basic sense of what the judging criterion for the contest is like (though we don't judge the contest solely based on responses to the questionnaire, as I said, it's impossible to develop a perfect system for this process).
Between the two of these sources, we're hoping to give a sense of how we judge the contests, but given your feedback, I think we will work on making the process more clear. Perhaps something like a link on the contest page that says "How we pick the winners".
I should mention that Freescale is not behind this contest: they own the patent in question and would probably be unhappy to see it invalidated.
To your last point (that there is no indication of when the contest is paid), that was very valuable feedback. I'm sorry that wasn't clear. It should be included in the legal terms and I'll make sure that going forward we make that information more available, again perhaps a link or line of text on the homepage of the contest.
If you have any more concerns don't hesitate to email or call me and let me know. We feel that the patent process is very inefficient and we believe we can improve it by getting experts like yourself involved. We want Patexia to become a platform where experts come to be acknowledged and rewarded for their expertise while also helping to improve the patent system and drive innovation. If something about that platform isn't working, I like to know so we can fix it.
So, I thank James McArdle for his clarifications and reiterate that I am 100% behind them on this effort, as evidenced by my posting this week What were they thinking: Apple crazy?
The patent system in the US is broken and being abused. We need to find ways to help save it in a manner that both protects real innovation but do not stifle progress and creativity.Brian Bailey
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