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Article One Partners raises $7M to check patent validity

Cheryl Milone

Article One Partners (AOP), a patent research firm that works with the U.S. patent office, announced today it has closed its second round of funding for $7 million.

Patent lawsuits are more common than product launches these days, especially thanks to litigation from Apple, Samsung, and Motorola that has happened over the last year. But because so many patents are being issued to huge companies that are in fierce competition, there isn’t a lot of research that goes into whether a patent is valid or not. Instead of feeding the squabble over whether one company’s technology infringes upon another company’s patent, AOP determines whether the patent was ever valid in the first place.

“We are part of the patent process, helping companies like Microsoft who have an interest in acting proactively against patent litigation,” AOP chief executive Cheryl Milone (pictured above) told VentureBeat.

AOP debuted at a DEMO event in 2009 and since then its mission has been to research patents to figure out how valid they are and whether the patented technology or process was already invented by someone else. The company uses crowd-sourced research to find “prior art” evidence for patents.

“We enlist our community to add evidence to patents, allowing the industry to remove inefficiencies, such as unnecessary litigation,” said Milone.

The company enlists the help of a community to hunt down evidence that a patent is valid. Community members that take on research projects are paid for their efforts, earning up to $50,000 per project. The community is made up of experts in certain industries, professional researchers, and “creative types” that, according to AOP, can offer various research perspectives.

AOP faces some competition from CrowdIPR, an intellectual property search community that pays people to find prior art evidence. That company just came on the scene in the United Kingdom. Though CrowdIPR is still in beta, both companies question the validity of patents on an international level.

Article One Partners will use the funding to grow its community and pay its researchers.

The company was founded in 2008 and has raised $14 million to date from Alleghany Capital, which led this round of funding and has previously invested in the company. AOP is based in New York, New York, and has fewer than 20 employees.