Business

Crowdfunding campaign hopes to help startups steer clear of patent trolls

Patent analytics firm IP Checkups wants to expose the patent portfolio owned by Intellectual Ventures, one of the largest patent trolls in the United States.

“The idea is that this information will enable startups and investors to make more informed decisions,” said Matt Rappaport, founder and CEO of IP Checkups, in a phone interview. “There is not a lot of transparency in the intellectual property field.”

IP Checkups plans to develop a resource known as Case IV Thicket, with funding raised through popular crowdfunding site, Indiegogo. Rappaport wants to raise $80,000 but hopes that the project will exceed its funding goals.

IP Checkups will use the funds to develop a free, public database of patent records — most likely, through an integration with Lex Machina’s technology, and will regularly publish their findings on a company blog.

Ultimately, they plan to create an online database of all the patents held by Intellectual Ventures and its shell companies. Using this data, analysts will be able to extrapolate broader trends, pinpoint the companies that are the most litigious, and point entrepreneurs in a direction that will help them avoid a costly and time-consuming intellectual property suit.

According to Rappaport, Intellectual Ventures owns about 40,000 patents in diverse fields from medical devices to wireless technologies. Many of these are hidden in more than 1,200 “shell companies”, which are used as a vehicle for business transactions and lawsuits. Rappaport told me that he has contacted Intellectual Ventures to inform them about the project but has yet to receive a response.

The alternative for investors and companies is PatentFreedom, a subscription-based service that claims to provide its customers with a competitive edge in intellectual property disputes.


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