A lot of people are grumbling about USPTO 9,430,468, “Online peer review system and method”, which describes (if I’m reading it right) Elsevier’s system of reallocating papers rejected from Journal A to a potentially more suitable Journal B. Parts of the patent describe the general process of peer review and (partly because of this) some of the criticisms currently circulating seem to think that this is a patent on the process of online peer review itself, which would clearly be ridiculous. However, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has picked this as its ‘stupid patent of the month’ for August, pointing out various examples of a similar process called cascading peer review dating back to at least 2009 (example 1; example 2). Eff clearly has concerns about the novelty of this patent.

My question: what, if any, are the differences between Elsevier’s now-patented ‘waterfall system’ and ‘cascading peer review’?

(I’m not sure if this would be a better fit for Law.SE, but thought the audience here would be more familiar with the important areas of the peer review process)

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