Experts in intellectual property are proposing to use online social networking networks like Facebook to eradicate the enormous backlog of patent applications in the USA.
The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) alone has several hundred thousand outstanding patent applications each year, and the number is still growing.
Delays in processing applications can slow the development of new technology as companies wait to see whether their applications have been granted before proceeding with expensive research.
Frank Peo from the Center for Technology Assessment in Pennsylvania is suggesting that the process could be vastly accelerated if social networks were used to fast-track the rejection of patents that failed to meet criteria for originality.
Peo's pilot project, called Peer-to-Patent, uses social networking software to allow groups of volunteer review experts to upload references, participate in discussion forums, rate other user submissions and add research references to pending applications.
The aim is to allow the actual patent examiners to focus on reviewing the most relevant aspects of any particular submission and so streamline the overall application process.
Good news for UK PLC too: similar approaches are now being investigated by the UK Intellectual Property Office and the European Patent Office.