I know we're not hurting for questions on SE:Patent, but there are still only a small number of contributors (who are to be commended for their dedication and knowledge!)

The idea is it could make sense to have IP law in general under a single stack, because sometimes on Patents copyright or trademark comes into the discussion. (I've found personally that for my own project, which involves a type of consumer software, I need a general grounding in patents, copyright and trademark, because all three are part of the IP equation.) It might be beneficial for patent people so see the copyright and trademark questions, and visa versa.

I don't know if this is a good idea or a bad idea, but it is clear to me that SE:Patents is useful. Patent law is a highly esoteric field, and even surveying law review sites can leave the layperson confused. Having a place to come and ask questions about these subjects is invaluable, imo.

2 Answers 2


I agree wholeheartedly.

There was recently a question about whether copyright or patents would be appropriate for a software invention. The answer is both. But we're sort of restricted from dealing with the copyright part, which leads to incomplete answers. Similarly, I suspect that the kinds of people who know about or have questions about one type of IP are likely to know about or have questions about other types.

It seems sub-optimal to do this in a patent-only bubble, and so I would very much like to see the scope of Ask Patents to be expanded to all kinds of IP (and perhaps become Ask IP).

I'm not sure how this would be accomplished. Would it mean putting forward an IP proposal through the Area 51 process? Would that then subsume the IP topics of Law.SE and all of Patents? Or perhaps just a quiet extension of the scope of Patents? I have no idea.

In any case however, as a practical matter, since Ask Patents is a bit of a unique creature, I'm sadly not so confident that this can occur.

  • I assume there could be a lot of gruntwork in identifying questions to be migrated, but as I'm already moderating one Stack (and find the work relaxing;) I'd be willing to take on that task. It would actually be useful to me to see the type of copyright and trademark questions people have been asking over the past few years.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 21:04

Unfortunately, we cannot do this on several fronts.

First and foremost, unless copyright and trademark law have been deemed off topic on the Law site, we have no cause to remove content from that community, along with the reputation and ownership that goes with it.

The narrow focus of this site has a somewhat unconventional and disjointed history. The original idea for this site was a much more singular collaboration with the USPTO to provide a place for the public to submit prior art requests for bad U.S. patent applications (original announcement). Even then, it took some prodding on my part to make "Ask Patents" a place where you could actually ask about patents. I was hoping for a more comprehensive community about Intellectual Properly. I also wanted this site to go through our normal community-building processes. I have also begged (many times) to please remove those unqualified discuss-this-patent links from every Google patent so we could please stop all the "where can I buy this?"-style questions trouncing this fledgling community with more closed content than not —— so finally, 2½ years after any signs of a USPTO presence faded, Law SE stepped in to fill that IP void.

They get about 10x the questions we do here.

Long story short, I cannot allow this site to intentionally overlap with the well-established scope of another community.

  • 1
    Robert, thanks for posting and providing an answer! (I'm still getting up to speed on the history of SE:Patents.)
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 22:44
  • 2
    Is there any update on the likelihood of this arrangement changing (such as a merger into Law or a complete shutdown), or anything we, the small community, can do to spur a change (hopefully away from the shutdown option)? I appreciate you've dealt with this question before a few times, but I'm hopeful one day there'll be an update.
    – Maca
    Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 22:52
  • 2
    @Maca I'd say start a meta post (either here and/or the Law community) asking if they are interested in making this part of the scope of Law SE. It sounds like a worthwhile discussion. If this could be subsumed by the [revised?] scope of Law SE, I would do it in a split-second. Internal office process aren't strictly part of the subject of law, but then again it could be. Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 22:56

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