Crowdsourcing Patent Research – Article One Partners

I was recently introduced to Article One Partners, a crowdsourcing website that is dedicated to uncovering research related to the validity of patents. Just because a patent has been granted by the USPTO does not mean that it should have been – in fact, nearly half of all patents litigated to judgment are eventually determined invalid.[1]

Article One provides a community that researches the validity of patents. Their researchers are often able to discover non-digitized evidence (such as textbooks and plaques) that could be directly related to a patent. They reach millions of researchers and subject matter experts from across the world, who speak dozens of languages. Since evidence that is related to a patent’s validity can be in any language from anywhere in the world, this is particularly compelling. Who knows what exists in Columbia that might directly relate to a patent in the United States?

Article One’s clients post requests for research of specific patents, which then appear on their website. The community of researchers sees these requests and looks for evidence related to the patent. The individual researchers that find the best evidence get paid between $5,000 and $50,000. Clients learn more about their patents and potentially save money, while individuals can make a lot of money. Everyone wins.

I can definitely see Article One being used as an extra layer of diligence in the VC community, especially bio-tech or medical devices.  For software, well I’m just hoping patents go away.

The other interesting use case is around defending against patent assertions which are becoming more common for early-stage, venture-backed companies. This service provides a tool in exploring the validity of the patents that have been asserted and provides quite a bit of leverage.

I have written before about my hatred of software patents, and frustration with the patent system in general. Platforms such as Article One Partners allow the general public to get involved (and be rewarded!) for ensuring that the patents that are out there are legitimate.


  • Ryan Harnedy

    Great post Jason. I think the thing that interests me most about the Article One model is that its looking at crowdsourcing on an international level. So much work in legal communities is determined by the district or region, and by looking to create a community of legal researchers online allows them to take advantage of the nature of online communication which is,,by nature, without borders.

  • Klondike Bar

    This seems like a great way to make some money on the side for doing research. From looking at their website it appears they have a number of active technology and healthcare studies in lots of different fields. Very cool.

  • Alex K.

    This seems like a great service to fix a market failure. It produces nothing when a company has to pay to fight a bogus patent suit, and it hurts innovation when a rightful patent owner can't protect his or her work. A company like this could quite easily reduce both inefficiencies and lead to stronger companies and technologies.

  • Andy L.

    What a perfect application of the "crowdsourcing" principle. Expert "geeks" who'd likely spend hours researching obscure technology in their field ANYWAY seem like a much more efficient tool for uncovering patent information than drawn-out legal battles.

  • Minerva

    I've been participating in the AOP community since January of 2009, and won my first award for uncovering secondary prior art in March of 2010. The money I was paid is the backbone for pursing an MSEE in the UK starting in September so I'm very lucky!

  • The River Temoc

    This may be a perfect application of the crowdsourcing principle, but frankly, that's only because the first-to-invent patent system creates such uncertainty as to the validity of patents.

    Surely if we had a first-to-file systems, that would obviate this company's entire business plan. Which might be bad for the company, but probably makes everyone else better off by making patents more secure.

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  • Heidi

    Hi!nI was just researching the company Article One trying to figure out if it is a scam. How does one know that the company will not use the research they provide but claim another person supplied it first so they don’t have an obligation to pay anyone?nAlso, after reading their agreements… there is nothing that prevents a researcher from finding that a patent could indeed be valid, and then patenting it themself! All that would happen would be a termination of use with Article One, unless of course I didn’t interpret the contracts accurately.

    • Anonymous

      I’ve spoken to the founder a number of times and he seems legit with hisrnhead in the correct place.

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  • Baker Street Irregular #36

    I’ve seen some nasty complaints about Article One on other sites, but they seem to be from people who either didn’t read or didn’t understand the agreement they were signing. Its not work for hire for hourly wages, it’s not contract piecework, it’s a competitive system where the rewards go to the best and quickest work submitted, more-or-less winner take all, very similar to many freelance writing sites like Helium, elance etc