Last year, Microsoft announced the initiative to make its list of patents publicly accessible to anyone on the internet. Following the same path, Microsoft last year announced its plans to provide electronic access to Microsoft’s prior art today. By making this information available to the USPTO and public, reviewers can better ensure issued patents reflect truly novel inventions. Microsoft today announced that the beta testing will be over soon and they are implementing the USPTO’s feedback. They are planning to make the service available to all patent examiners by May 2014 and will continue to add to the database with the goal of providing examiners access to more than 10 million archived Microsoft technical documents.
The USPTO reviews thousands of applications, and part of that review includes a search to see if the idea is truly novel. Right now, though, the USPTO lacks easy access to an enormous amount of this ‘prior art’ information, some of which exists only on paper and optical media filed in libraries and corporate archives.
In the fall of 2013, Microsoft launched a prior art initiative to solve this problem. We began the process of uploading our extensive archive of information, not readily available to the public, that might serve as prior art. Already we have made the database of 1.8 million documents available to patent examiners – for free and in a searchable format – while the site is in the live-beta phase. In the coming months, the database will be customized with new features, functionalities and documents that will improve the utility of the service.