I love Wikipedia. I use it extensively for quick and dirty research and I often use Wikipedia links to illustrate points in my blogs for convenience. But I just could not believe my eyes when I read that, “Examiners at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office have used Wikipedia to help determine a patent application’s validity on everything from from car parts to chip designs.”
My initial reaction was that the examiners at the USPTO must be mad. Because of Wikipedia’s constant changing nature (anyone can change an entry at any moment), it should never be used as the final and authoritative source on anything from as simple as an academic paper (definitely not at the University level or even for senior high school level (if they are serious)), definitely not the court system nor the patent system.
Bu then I came across a comment by Scott , a former patent examiner. He was using Wikipedia to show an invention to be anticipated or obvious. Hmmm, OK, thats what they are using Wikipedia for. And then he went on to say that,
I just don’t see why wikipedia was singled out among all sources, especially in view of the fact that an article from *any other website* can be used as prior art without explicit PTO condemnation. At least wikipedia is reviewed by a community, whereas each cult leader who claims to have invented a time-warping spaceship can publish anything he wants without review (I’ve actually used one of these sites in a rejection before).
Wow, so anything that anyone wrote or hinted in any website can be used to reject an invention, that is very steep a test indeed. But before I seem to praise the USPTO for their “hard” work in rejecting bogus patent, I would like to bring up the case where the poor Research In Motion was forced to pay $612.5 million for a patent challenge where the patent was ultimately proved to be invalid. Go figure.
At this point of total confusion, and to distract you from my obvious ignorance, I should point out that Google Scholar is my personal search engine of choice when I want to do some serious research and don’t mind reading tons of jargons.
What is Google Scholar?
“Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts and articles, from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, universities and other scholarly organizations. Google Scholar helps you identify the most relevant research across the world of scholarly research.”
For more on Wikipedia and the USPTO, check out this Wall Street Journal Law blog entry and the comments.