Making waves in the scholarly communication world this week is the news that Elsevier has been awarded a U.S. patent for “online peer review system and method”. I admit, when I first saw this, I thought it had to be a joke. Turns out it’s not. You can see the patent for yourself at U.S. Patent: Online peer review system and method (U.S. Patent No. 9,430,468).
While it’s too early to tell exactly how this will play out and Elsevier has denied any nefarious plans, the news has raised a number of concerns among advocates for open access and open source publishing, mostly regarding how the patent will be enforced (if it can be enforced at all) and what it might mean for scholars as well as smaller publishers.
Considering Elsevier’s often negative reputation, it probably isn’t much of a surprise that the patent has been met with a fair bit of suspicion.