Some of the most important provisions of the America Invents Act came into effect this week.  Among these provisions is the opportunity for third parties to anonymously submit prior art to the USPTO to be considered by a patent examiner prior to a notice of allowance being issued in a patent application.  This allows third parties to identify prior art references to the USPTO that could affect the patentability of a patent application, thereby possibly preventing patents with unduly broad claims from being issued.  Such submissions cost $180 dollars for up to ten references, and provide a great opportunity for the public to assist patent examiners through crowd sourcing.

In conjunction with this new opportunity, Stack Exchange has just launched a new website called  For a further review of how this website came about, with an interesting assist to USPTO Director Kappos, take a look at the blog post from StackExchange CEO Joel Spolsky.

Ask Patents is a new Stack Exchange site launching today that allows anyone to participate in the patent examination process. It’s a collaborative effort, supported by Stack Exchange, the US Patent and Trademark Office, and the Google Patent Search team. It’s very exciting, because it is opening up a process that has been conducted behind closed doors for over 200 years.

While perusing the early entries on the site leads me to be skeptical as to the signal-to-noise ratio of such an effort, I am excited by the possibility of the public being given an opportunity to contribute to the patent application process.  For those interested in this area, it is well worth checking out.