In July 2008, the USPTO announced that business method patent applications would be opened up to public commentary as part of the Peer to patent pilot program. Only applicants that volunteer and sign a waiver will have their applications be part of the program. They must apply no later than one month after their applications are published. Those that do volunteer will have their applications examined right away. It is hoped that knowledgeable members of the public will review the applications and provide prior art and commentary to assist patent examiners in examining them. (footnotes omitted.)
From what I understand, the Patent Trademark Office has become overrun and often measures lag times on applications in not weeks or months, but years. In a world where the state of the art can change almost overnight, such delays can be crippling for those who are attempting to push forward with new ideas or concepts. One solution to the current logjam would be to hire more examiners. However, they are specialists, and their pay scale is fairly generous, not something that goes over well in a budget-cutting environment.
Instead, the USPTO is leaning on those in the know for comments before examiners even take their first look at applications. I think that this is a marvelous idea in theory, as it could get applicants definitive answers more rapidly than otherwise and could remove some of the burden from examiners. On the downside, I suppose it is possible that the commentariat could identify issues or problems that an examiner wouldn't, leading to a rejection (though maybe that would be beneficial as well if the application weren't worthy...however from the perspective of the applicant there are obvious negatives).
Though there are some obvious benefits and (possible) downsides, I am curious to know if there are any other externalities, positive or negative, which have arisen from this program. Therefore, I would appreciate thoughts from anyone with experience in the comment section below.