To the Editor:
Your article about Elsevier’s patent for the “waterfall” model of online peer review, “Elsevier’s New Patent for Online Peer Review Throws a Scare Into Open-Source Advocates” (The Chronicle, September 1), understates the concern with the patent. While those who advocate for open-access publishing (sometimes misleadingly referred to as “open-source” publishing) are concerned that it might harm open-access journals, the patent could just as easily be used against publishers who charge subscriptions while using the waterfall model. With the patent granted, Elsevier could sue Springer or any publisher for allegedly violating the patent, and in order to keep using this method without negotiating to pay patent royalties to Elsevier, the other publisher would have to demonstrate it has have been using the model since before June 28, 2012, when Elsevier filed the patent. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation has noted, Elsevier did not invent this idea in 2012: It’s been around since at least 2009.
In short, the concern is with inhibiting innovation in academic publishing in general, not just in open-access publishing, through an improperly granted patent.
Assistant Dean for Scholarly Communication
University of North Texas