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    Crowdfunding ‘Operation Ninja STAR’ Arms Small Business Against Patent ‘Trolls’

    Published on 10 December 2013 @ 9:26 pm

    By for Intellectual Property Watch

    Small businesses form the backbone of the American economy, but many see patent assertion entities (PAEs), or, “patent trolls” and troll lawsuits as serious wrenches thrown into these economic engines of innovation and ideas.

    So, Article One Partners (AOP), a global patent research community that crowdsources its research for tech giants and law firms the likes of Microsoft and Philips and/or Sony [corrected], today launched “Operation Ninja STAR,” a crowdfunding effort to help small businesses defend themselves against PAEs behaving badly.

    Crowdsourcing allows companies like AOP to utilise researchers and even Average Joes from around the globe who curate information and prior art on a patent; researchers are compensated based on the quality of work submitted. AOP has completed more than 1,000 crowd-based studies looking for prior art; they have saved clients at least $25 million by paying the crowd about $5 million for the work. Now, they are employing their “patent ninjas” to help defend small business.

    “We’re just sitting here on the sidelines saying, ‘wait a minute – if the crowd can work for the Apples, the Microsofts, the Googles of the world, why can’t it work for a more dispersed group” of those facing potentially frivolous PAE threats, AOP CEO Marshall Phelps said in an interview with Intellectual Property Watch.

    “This is a bit of an experiment to see if we can pull this together to act on behalf of really a group that isn’t well represented,” Phelps added. “This is not an experiment in terms of the mechanics – we know the crowd can do it. The question is – is there enough interest by these small companies … to say ‘this is worth it?’”

    Whereas large companies have the resources to combat PAEs both in and outside the courtroom, for a small business, paying the PAE to go away – let alone going to litigation – can seriously hurt, if not break, their business.

    Even though some argue that the PAE threat is not as dire as it is often made out to be, and that PAE suits are not exactly swamping the American courts, there is a case to be made that small businesses are particularly vulnerable. The White House noted in a report [pdf] earlier this year that the majority of PAE suits target small and inventor-driven companies; in a survey of 223 technology startups, 40 percent of PAE-targeted companies reported a “significant” operational impact due to a suit or threat of one.

    How It Works

    By using crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, AOP aims to raise a minimum of $17,500 by 25 January 2014 to begin this initiative and pay crowd researchers based on the quality of their evidence. When contributions exceed that goal, evidence for additional patents will be added to the repository.

    To start, the campaign will investigate the validity of US patent 8,180,858, which involves an “apparatus and method that employs selectable and modifiable animation to collect data related to the choices made by the users of an information network.”

    The patent is owned by Treehouse Avatar Technologies, which has sued several companies, making a large number of patent assertions against small companies, including independent game developers like Bad Pug Games, the creator of “Starpires”, and medium-sized companies including Turbine Entertainment, creator of the popular “Dungeons and Dragons” game.

    AOP’s international “patent ninjas” will look for evidence that could prove the patent in question is not unique, then submit their findings to a repository – the “Start-up Troll Attack Resource” or “Ninja STAR,” for short – which are vetted by the AOP team. When a startup is sued, they can use “Ninja STAR” for support and information on the patent.

    Once AOP can determine the success of the Treehouse experiment and it proves useful to small business, it may consider crowdsourcing additional patents.

    Meanwhile, it doesn’t hurt that the White House-backed Innovation Act is making its way through the US Congress – it’s prime goal to reduce PAE activity. That bill passed the House last week; the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to hold a hearing on the measure on 17 December.

    “The timing is wonderful in a sense … it can’t hurt any,” said Phelps, a former vice president and deputy general counsel for intellectual property and licensing at Microsoft. “There’s a lot of attention being paid to this problem and at the end of the day, it comes down to something we really care about and that’s patent quality.”

     

    Liza Porteus Viana may be reached at lizapviana@gmail.com.

     

    Comments

    1. Top 10 IP and Patent News Update - Article One Partners says:

      […]  Crowdfunding “Operation Ninja STAR” Arms Small Business Against Patent Trolls – IP Watch […]


    Leave a Reply

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

    9. These terms and your posts and contributions shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Switzerland (without giving effect to conflict of laws principles thereof) and any dispute exclusively settled by the Courts of the Canton of Geneva.

     

     
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