I see a large number of "When does Patent X expire?" questions being marked as duplicates of How do you determine a patent's expiration date?, with zero effort to edit, re-tag or answer the question. I don't think this is constructive, because most of these questions are being asked by new users who are likely not familiar with patents, patent law, or the associated terminology. It takes several years to really understand these things, and that cannot be expected from a casual user who simply wants a direct answer to a direct question.
I know the information is out there on how to calculate patent expiration dates. I am not arguing the importance of providing that information. But closing these questions as duplicates is non-constructive if not downright irresponsible.
Remember, these questions are being linked to directly from Google Patents. This is a huge deal. Aside from Wikipedia and a small handful other sites, Ask Patents is in a privileged position on the internet due to this blessing from Google and the USPTO. Every answer that is posted here may potentially impact case law and commercial entities. With that in mind, there should be at least some attempt to provide a constructive answer instead of simply creating more dead ends. Too many dead ends will kill Ask Patents. If this community is removed from Google, it might as well not even exist.
Here is what I propose:
A more constructive approach would be (at minimum) to provide the link to the other question in a comment, and to give the original poster or any other user a chance to answer the question directly. I've already gone through several of these, and every one seems to have some unique criteria that affect the expiration date. It is easy to overlook some features of a patent and arrive at an incorrect expiration date unless you have seen each specific condition before. The answers to these questions can be used as a teaching tool for new users as well as some established users in this community, and they provide both a permanent record for others who are looking for the same information, as well as a way to contest or update an existing answer. A closed question offers none of these possibilities.
Cases in point:
This is an incredibly important patent, and the question deserves an answer. Unfortunately, I can't provide an answer because it has been closed as a duplicate of a question regarding the expiration date of Patent US 7,055,282 B2. These patents are not related, and therefore the question should not be considered a duplicate. Cite the answer to that question in a comment, certainly. But don't mark it as a duplicate. It is not a duplicate. We are talking about the expiration of a completely different and industrially important patent. Not to mention, the first thing a user will see when they click on the Google Patent discussion link for the Herceptin patent is not a constructive answer to a question, but a "marked as duplicate of the expiration date for "Hydroponic plant cultivating apparatus". This is completely misleading to a casual user who is using Google to find information on a specific patent.
Marked as a duplicate but was thankfully wasn't closed yet. The answer to this question has significant commercial ramifications, as it affects 40 different international patent applications and issued grants. Not only that, but it is an illustrative case of a divisional application filed after 1995 with a priority date that limits the enforcement.
There was an incorrect answer here (it is very easy to miss important details if you aren't familiar with them), but at least another answer could be posted. It turned out to be an illustrative example of a continuation application with a high chance of a missed maintenance fee payment that will be worthy of an update in the very near future.
These are all incredibly important things, relevant to huge (in real dollars) patent families. Why should these be closed as duplicates?