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  • Mr. Benkler Goes to Washington: The Peer-to-Patent Project as a Case Study on the Limits of Crowdsourcing

    After reading this, you are probably going to look up Peer-to-Patent on Wikipedia. Crowdsourcing has become very prevalent today; from Uber to Linux, the possibilities seem endless. Professor Benkler’s seminal paper had previously argued that crowdsourcing can tackle any project so long as the project can be divided into finely-sized modules with low integration costs. This paper analyzes crowdsourcing’s limits while challenging that traditional framework via the case study of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Peer-to-Patent Project (P2PP), which solicits public input during the patent examination process. This paper’s analysis of P2PP’s failures reveals that adequate volunteer interest, balance of volunteer contributions, institutional affiliations, and most importantly, robust infrastructure are all relevant and limiting factors for crowdsourcing. To date, this paper is the only independent – and critical – evaluation of P2PP, which has continued to be a darling of the USPTO despite its limited successes and many jarring failures.