"The concept behind the program, called Peer-to-Patent, is straightforward: Publish patent applications on the Web for all to see and let anyone with relevant expertise -- academics, colleagues, even potential rivals -- offer input to be passed along to the Patent Office.
By using the power of the Internet to tap the wisdom of the masses, Peer-to-Patent aims to dig up hard-to-find "prior art" -- evidence that an invention already exists or is obvious and therefore doesn't deserve a patent.
The goal is to locate prior art that Patent Office examiners might not find on their own -- and to produce better patents by reducing ones granted on applications that aren't novel. The hope is that this will drive innovation by improving the patent process and reducing the patent infringement lawsuits clogging the courts."
Using the mob to search for prior art and inform the USPTO doesn't seem like a terribly bad idea, so long as it's verifiable through multiple, independent channels or vetting pools (think peer-reviewed academic journals). I'm extremely concerned regarding overly zealous enthusiasm however.
I want to explore this idea but time prohibits me from doing so. To dumb it down, how would a process like the proposed be insulated from a Digg phenomenon as well as an inadvertant data leak that would let a competitor interject itself in the process and, say, stall for time to market?