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Are questions that attempt to crowd-source the prior art gathering process going to be on topic/allowed?

I'm thinking about questions along the lines of:

I'm being sued by company X regarding infringement of patent Y. I think the patent is obvious and I would like to try invalidating it. Can you find prior art for patent Y?

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I don't see why not, as long as it's understood that you're expecting answers that address aspects of the patent, and not your specific legal situation. The #1 goal for this site listed in the FAQ is:

  1. Solicit help finding prior art that might apply to a patent or application

But keep reading that FAQ, 'cause you'll want to do your homework before asking:

Important: All prior art questions must show that you have put in effort to find and understand the prior art that you are looking for. Questions like, “US8675309 - any prior art out there?” will be closed unless they also include details of what you’re looking for, or what you’ve already done to search.

Presumably you've already done a few searches to try and flush out prior art - so rather than wasting your time and the time of those responding by letting them do likewise, explain what you've tried looking for, what you found, and how it fell short. This then sets the stage for someone else to try something fresh.

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Prior art covers two distinct propositions: 1) section 102 invalidating prior art is a single reference that includes every limitation of a patent claim; and 2) section 103 invalidating prior art is a combination of one or more references that, taken together, teach or disclose every limitation of a patent claim.

The emphases in the previous statement are significant. It is also important to know that each patent claim represents a separate invention, so it is unusual to invalidate an entire patent with multiple claims based on a single prior art reference.

Appeals for prior art should be clear about just which patent claim they are focused on. In particular, such appeals should include any special definitions for claim terms that are specifically defined in the patent specification or previously interpreted by the Court (in a Markman Order).

This patent forum will develop more detailed requirements for formulating such requests as time goes on. But the description given above is a good start.

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