In most countries, patent law does not back legal enforcement of a patent on an idea if it has been described in a published form, thus creating 'prior art'. Websites where people can document their novel inventions in detail create anti-patent pools, which can be used to neutralize patents. The technical name for of publishing and collecting prior art as a defensive strategy against patent trolls is an "enabled invention disclosure", a "defensive publication", or a "technical bulletin". This is especially important in areas like medicine, energy, software etc. where there is a strong public interest in removing barriers to accessing inventions. IPWatchdog.com has some infomation about the exact rules about prior art in US law, but I need to find some information specific to the NZ Patent Act, which was recently amended to remove software from being subject to patents here.
I came up with the idea of an open-publishing prior art website in 2010, and put it up as a proposed project here on the Disintermedia wiki. Since then, I've discovered a number of projects have emerged that work on this principle :
- Open Source as Prior Art project, supported by the Linux Foundation.
- Patent Commons, also supported by the Linux Foundation.
- Linux Defenders, run by a GNU/Linux patent pool called the Open Innovation Network.
- Research Disclosure, a general defensive publication site
- Prior Art Database, another general defensive publication site