Today, a new user asked a few perfectly legitimate questions about a patent and this community in general, but the questions are currently outside the scope of Ask Patents.

  1. Patent Discussion

I wanted to "Discuss This Patent" but all I'm allowed to do is ask a question. How can I discuss the patent just in itself, instead of having to ask a question? I don't understand why Google provides a button to "discuss" but then only allows me to ask a question instead of being able to post pertinent information about this patent.

As the original poster mentions, the button on Google states "Discuss this Patent", but found some constraints that he did not expect when he followed the link to this community. Other people (including myself, for one) would also be a bit confused. Does anyone have any ideas to mitigate the confusion for first time users arriving here from Google with the intent to "Discuss this Patent"?

Update: I see now that this first question is a duplicate and the issue has been raised before.

  1. Patent Licensing

I only wanted to post the info on the firm which was licensed to use the knife patent, The Great American Tool Company, a.k.a. GATCo of Getzville, NY, near Buffalo. For example, DataMP.org posts info on what firm used the patents they detail.

According to the tooltips that appear when asking questions, specific licensing information is officially off topic for this community. Are there any examples available for what might constitute on-topic questions about patent licenses (e.g., case law, historically significant licenses).

  1. Patent History

In my research on Western NY manufacturing history, I seldom deal with patents this new; I typically deal with ones 80+ years old. It's hard to find documentation on old patents and manufacturers, so being able to document history on a patent is important, to me. Further, www.DataMP.org only deals with certain patents (e.g., tools, engines, machinery) so there're few areas where patent history can be saved. Google has done a great service with its patent site, and I hope it can be expanded to include history.

Is patent history within the scope of this community? Are there any guidelines or boundaries for asking such questions? Does historical licensing fit within the boundaries of these questions?

1 Answer 1


First off, I think it's worth recognizing that "question" was, while well-intentioned, not on-topic in any way. Fundamentally, regardless of our specific scope here, it wasn't a question. The user wanted to share information, which is awesome, but that specific use-case just isn't what the Stack Exchange model is good for. He'd have more luck, perhaps, making a Wikipedia article (or similar) to post the information.

As such, it's hard to take that particular post as too precedent-setting. That's not to say your points aren't valid, they are, but we should take the context with a grain of salt.

Going down your list, then:

  1. Patent Discussion

Technicality: you cited my previous post here (from before I was a moderator here, even) as a duplicate of that, which wasn't exactly right. That was similar, but about a Ask Patents-side issue. So you were definitely novel in bringing that up publicly :).

That said, I had this exact complaint when I first learned about that button. And I brought it up, privately in a moderator chatroom with a Stack Exchange Community Manager, who told me that it was unlikely to be changed. Politics. That's up to Google. I could ask again, but I don't expect much movement. If you wanted to post that complaint as a new, self-contained Meta issue here ("Change the text of 'Discuss this Patent' in Google Patents"), I could run it up the chain again, but I don't know whether it's worth it. We could probably at least get a more formal answer from Robert Cartaino.

I definitely do feel for users who are confused by that, especially because we get a lot of really excited individuals like this one, who just want to share some family history or research they've done, and we have to close it.

In general, a workaround I offer is to post the information on Ask Patents Chat. That's not appropriate, probably, for something like this, and it's generally pretty quiet in there (although I'd love to see that changed!), but it's a nice way that the Stack Exchange network does offer us the ability to discuss things.

  1. Patent Licensing

I'm having a bit more difficulty with this one. It would help to see an example of something that you feel should be on-topic, that isn't just an announcement.

But no, in general, licensing is not on-topic. In many ways, this is just because the scope says it. Reviewing the three things we can help with at the time of posting this,

  1. Prior art for a US patent application, whether anyone knows of any that might exist, or whether something you’ve found would qualify
  2. US patent law or the patent approval process
  3. Specific aspects or interpretations of a particular patent claim

We find that none of these really cover licensing. It's a broad topic, and more often than not, questions in it are just too specific for us. And even more often, they're questions for the patent holder.

I'd like to give a super advanced and interesting answer on this one, but it's pretty much just the same reason as why we can't help people with their debugging problems--it's just not what the site is for. If you'd like to propose a modification to our scope, feel free to post that as a new, independent meta question, with examples of what you feel should be on-topic, and the community will review them. I'm not opposed to broadening the scope, but I'm not sure what would be appropriate for this case.

  1. Patent History

This one's also difficult. My answer here is pretty much the same as the other two: we're a Q&A site, not a raw information archive. We get some pretty awesome archive information, but that's not the primary purpose. If someone wants to preserve information, self-answering a question is a good option, as long as the question is on-topic. But "where was this patent used?" isn't on-topic, so that's open-and-closed.

As for guidelines, I think the most comprehensive guidelines we offer are those listed in the help/on-topic page (quoted above). We don't complain about questions about historical patents, but it's generally difficult to fit those questions into the scope of the site. Again, if you'd like to amend the scope in some way, feel free to post about that on meta and it will be reviewed.

I wish I could be more helpful in this answer. I feel like most of this has been something of a cop-out. But really, I think I just need examples of questions that you feel fit in to these topics that should be on-topic. Because there's currently just no way that the post in question right now is.

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