Ono Academic College Faculty of Law
Dr. Lital Helman is a Senior Lecturer at the Ono Academic College Faculty of Law in Israel. Her research focuses on Intellectual Property Law and Law and Technology. Her articles were published in leading journals around the world. Dr. Helman holds an S.J.D. (Doctor of Juridical Science) degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, which she pursued as a J. William Fulbright scholar. She also served as a Fellow with the Kernochan Center at Columbia University Law School and with the Engelberg Center at New York University School of Law. Prior to her legal studies, Dr. Helman also taught C++ courses in Hacker Software. She is also a co-founder and board member of GradTrain.com, an AI-driven platform for international students.
Decentralized Patent Systems
Patent law is the paradigmatic case for a system in which effectiveness depends not only on the substantive law in place but also—and even more so—on establishing a structure that supports good decisionmaking on a case by case basis.
Currently, the patent system features a centralized structure from beginning to end. The United States Patents and Trademark Office (PTO) is solely responsible for examining inventions for patentability, as well as for publishing the granted patents to the public, and increasingly, for managing post-grant proceedings. Is a centralized structure optimal for patent decisionmaking? This Paper argues that the answer is almost certainly negative. The centralized nature of the patent system results in inefficiency of the patent examination process, high error rates in the examination outputs, and slow introduction of new technology to the public. These are critical issues that hinder the very purpose of the patent system.
This paper posits that the patent system would function better in a decentralized structure. It begins by a theoretical analysis of the costs and benefits of centralized and decentralized systems and outlines the criteria for selection between the two. It then moves to show that better results are forthcoming for the patent system in a decentralized structure.
What would a decentralized patent system look like? I propose to build on new technological developments in the areas of both blockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Inventors would submit patent applications to a shared patent record on a blockchain (or another architecture), instead of filing them with the PTO. After a grace period, in which inventions remain secret, patent applications would be reviewed by scientists for patentability, with the help of AI technology. With time, more responsibility would shift from examiners to the AI to determine patentability. Following the review, patents would be available to the public on the decentralized record.
A decentralized model fosters a strategy focused on diversity, information gathering and efficiency. This model would boost productivity and reduce the error rate in the patent examination process. The system would also create beneficial spillovers by exposing industry scientists to new ideas early in their conception and would thus boost progress and innovation. Further, the decentralization of the patent record would dramatically improve the effectiveness of the record, by including in the record robust information, use cases, and self-executable smart contracts. Finally, the system would implement technology that would simplify and facilitate the process of patent registration. As a result of all these improvements, the decentralized system would spur innovation and patenting.