There are lots of patents granted every day, but it’s very hard for any given expert to predict which ones are valid. Article One Partners is addressing this problem by tapping the wisdom of crowds.
Article One, unveiled at DEMOfall 09, finds groups of expert advisors who “crowdsource” the question of whether a particular patent is valid or not. The company is now adding a new feature where clients of Article One can now directly posts requests for patent studies or requests for “prior art,” or evidence that something being claimed as an invention was really preceded by an earlier invention.
In nine months of beta testing, the community has proven that the concept works. It’s well-known that the patent system is overwhelmed at that many questionable patents are sneaking through the system, even though proper research hasn’t been done on prior art.
The patent office can do this work, but its resources are limited and its focus is mostly on U.S. patents. On top of that, many English language search engines only look at the abstracts of foreign patents. Foreign inventions can also invalidate U.S. patents, so Article One recruits researchers from around the world. Often, the invalidating evidence can be in the footnotes for the foreign patents.
The experts are paid if they produce invalidating evidence. Those experts can earn up to $50,000 per research project and share in about 5 percent of Article One’s annual net profit. It’s a like a citizen’s review board for the police department, only for the patent system. The company claims it can tap as many as three million researchers for expert opinions.
Cheryl Malone, chief executive and founder of Article One, said that about 33 percent of studies launched since the company’s beta went live in November, 2008, have yielded invalidating evidence.