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.
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.