The White House has yet again challenged the public in an effort to streamline government services and promote public innovation. Much like recent efforts to improve government websites, the crowd has been called in again-- this time to develop an algorithm to help the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office speed up its approval process.
$50,000 is on offer to the best submission. Anyone in the world can team up with a friend and try for the prize, but specialists in image processing will have a clear advantage. According to a post on the White House blog, the criteria for the best algorithm are this: reduce the paper generated by the patent office during its approval process, and speed it up by linking pictures and descriptions in a patent brief together, automatically.
The current process is very paper intensive: all the documentation related to potential patents -- including all the unique elements and design quirks – and their descriptions and notes, need to be examined, cross referenced and checked. With the new algorithm, the key parts of the designs and technical drawings can be identified automatically and linked to the relevant descriptions, making the process of identifying the key elements of a patent much faster. Hopefully this faster approval process will in turn lead to more patents, more startups and more economic movement.
The huge variation that is possible in images makes image processing a difficult task. However, the limitations of technical drawings and the consistent aspects of patent write ups make this task suitably well-defined.
More than 900 people have already applied to take part in the Challenge. The winner will be decided before Feb. 16, 2012. For more information on this and the whole suite of the White House’s challenges to the public, visit Challenge.gov.