How do I challenge a patent application? In other words, I'm supposed to be able to use this site to challenge the community to find prior art. So, for example, here's a patent application that looks stupid to me:


  • What should the title be of the question that challenges this?
  • What should I include in the question?
  • What tags should I use?
  • How much work do I have to do myself looking for prior art before I submit the question?

1 Answer 1


I'll take an initial stab at this. CW, feel free to modify.

What should the title of the question be?

The title must contain the issuing patent authority, serial number and the summary of the patent. Indicate that you want to challenge the patent by predicating the title with the word 'Challenge'. Per your example patent, the title would be:

Challenge US 20090293106 "Method and apparatus for controlling wireless network access privileges"

This serves some key purposes:

  1. Search engines quickly see it, and put your challenge in front of other people that feel that the patent has no merit

  2. Anyone familiar with the patent can quickly see it on a a list of questions

  3. Anyone with domain knowledge, but perhaps not familiar with the patent will see that it's something they may be interested in viewing.

What should I include in the question?

The question should open with a summary of why you think the patent is invalid. What specific claims does it make that you disagree with? Why do you disagree with them?

You should also tell us why you care about this patent. What precisely does it cover, what are the possible ramifications of not challenging it?

What tags should I use?

Do tag the question with the patent or publication number per the FAQ. In this case, use the tag .

Do tag the question if the question is specifically a request for prior art. One of the goals of the site is to identify and submit prior art to the USPTO in accordance with the AIA (America Invents Act).

Do tag the question with more general categories that others might subscribe to. For this example, tags like or (the USPTO's classification) might be useful.

Don't invent more tags than you need.

How much work do I have to do myself looking for prior art before I submit the question?

As much as possible. Presumably if you're convinced that an application is "stupid" you must have a pretty concrete idea of exactly what prior art invalidates it. You should tell us what that is and where you found it. A link to the art itself (not a discussion of the art) is essential. And remember: the art you have in mind must have existed prior to the time of filing. In fast-moving fields, many inventions that would not be new now, were new in the surprisingly recent past.

The end of your question is where our work begins, so it really does need to include some starting points.

  • 1
    Good answer, especially the part about what to include in the question body. I updated the section on tagging. Sep 6, 2012 at 12:50
  • 1
    @DavidFullerton That looks a lot better. I didn't realize that we would be ultimately submitting prior art to the USPTO - that is just insanely awesome.
    – Tim Post
    Sep 6, 2012 at 13:24
  • Yep, one of the coolest parts of the AIA is third-party submission of prior art. There are some hoops to jump through, but it's now possible (or will be after Sept 17) Sep 6, 2012 at 13:37
  • 1
    If we are always putting the patent application number as a tag, do we need it in the title too? Sep 6, 2012 at 14:43
  • @JoelSpolsky I'm not sure. People search frequently by patent numbers (well, I do anyway) .. would having it just in the tag make relevant posts visible enough in (Google/etc) search results? I have never seen a page full of results based on a tag from SO when searching for a solution to a programming problem.
    – Tim Post
    Sep 6, 2012 at 14:49
  • @TimPost, From your requirements, it seems to be pretty much alot of work required for the initial poster... perhaps up to an hour per post or more. Will requiring so much time and effort from the initial poster actually discourage the huge influx of "prior art requests" which is what AskPatents hope for? I'm not saying the initial poster post a challenge without any details, but I'm saying he should not be required to do the full elaboration for the post.
    – Pacerier
    Jun 5, 2014 at 1:19
  • @Pacerier This was an initial stab at the 'ideal' format, which is something to strive for. As long as someone gives enough information initially, editors can come behind and more closely follow it.
    – Tim Post
    Jun 5, 2014 at 8:12

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