Ask Patents has a committed, but relatively small community. This has some downstream effects, like the lack of any community moderators, and the lack of diversity in answerers. There has been some discussion over the years of what could be done to remedy this. For example Can ask patents be referred back to Area 51?, What to do to get this site more attention? and Would migrating Copyright and Trademarks from the general Legal stack make sense?.
This question is prompted by our moderator's comment on the last of these.
At least part of issue with Ask Patents likely stems from its scope being rather narrow. This leads to relatively few good questions, and so relatively few contributors become regulars. One of the options that crops up from time-to-time (at least because I mention it) is whether Ask Patents could be merged into Law, given that there is a great deal of overlap between the scopes of each site. Indeed, one recent question appeared on both stacks, and got reasonably similar answers.
A comparison between the scopes
For reference, the scope of Law is:
Statutes or court decisions
Legal terms and language, doctrines and theory
Legal process and procedure
Historical legal applications
Dealing with legal professionals
The scope of Patents is:
Prior art for a US patent application, whether anyone knows of any that might exist, or whether something you’ve found would qualify.
US patent law or the patent approval process
Specific aspects or interpretations of a particular patent claim
The latter two seem clearly within the current scope of Law. That is, US patent law or the patent approval process is clearly within "legal process and procedure". And "specific aspects or interpretations of a particular patent claim" is clearly within "legal terms and language" or "legal process and procedure". Indeed, it is reasonably common to see questions about the interpretation of contract terms. Since a contract is to contract law as a patent is to patent law, it seems reasonable that interpretations of patent claims should be on topic too.
It therefore seems to me that the only potential difference is a question relating to prior art for a US patent application. This is a tricky one. It doesn't neatly fit into any of the categories. In addition, it could be seen as a little close to "specific legal advice", which is explicitly off-topic. But on the other hand, with a little creative interpretation, it is a question relating to "historical legal application" in the sense of "did the USPTO properly apply the requirement for novelty and non-obviousness in this historical patent case?". Since I'm not a regular here, I unfortunately don't have a feel for how the community would react to such a question.
In view of this, my question is in two parts:
- Does the scope of Law already fully cover the scope of Ask Patents?
- If not, would the Law community be in favour of broadening the scope to do so?