Could the crowd be the answer to what ails our broken patent system? Probably not for all the problems, but perhaps the crowd can put a stop to some meaningless patent lawsuits brought by patent trolls (er, excuse me. “Non Practicing Entities”).
A while ago, I wrote about Article One Partners. They essentially use the crowd to find prior art for patents and other valuable research and evidence. Here’s the basic concept: Article One uses crowdsourcing to tap into a global network of researchers to study the validity of patents that have been granted (which are often in litigation). You can read what I wrote about them last time here. One note of interest that came out of my conversations with Article One is the increasing number of times their solution is used to settle suits that come from licensing companies that do nothing but assert patents they have acquired. And I believe that many of these patents are either of low quality or of the b.s. business method patent variety. These are the folks that I like to call “patent trolls” or “destroyers of real innovation.”
This is particularly interesting as Article One announced this week that it has launched a new request for research of a patent held by Interval Licensing LLC. For those of you not aware, Interval asserted patent claims against major technology companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, eBay and five others. One of the founders of Interval Licensing is Paul Allen, formerly of Microsoft. Interesting to note that Seattle-based companies suchas Microsoft are missing from the assertion. Also, as an aside, it makes me absolutely sick that he is behaving this way. Couldn’t he be more like Bill Gates and actually do something productive for the world with his wealth?
An Interval Licensing spokesman came out in the WSJ Digits blog to say, “I don’t take [Article One Partners’ crowdsourcing approach] to be a serious threat to our case.” I’m not so sure. The patent system is such a mess that someone in the crowd – maybe from here in Boulder, maybe from India – might just find the needle in the haystack.
So get involved. If you are out there and have some skills in the area, click on the link and get to work. Help make our patent ecosystem a little better and you can do well by doing good.
On a side note, I’m stoked about Articles One’s current success. Good luck fighting the good fight and I wish you the best of luck against Interval Licensing LLC.