Article One Hypes Up Maybe Finding Prior Art That Might Possibly Invalidate A Patent?

from the not-that-exciting,-folks dept

The folks at Article One are nothing if not aggressive in their attempts to get me to write about what they do. They submitted the following story four separate times (once is enough, please!). Article One, you may recall, is the company that came on the scene last year with a plan to pay money to people if they could find prior art that invalidated patents. We were a bit skeptical, and found it odd that the company seems to not want to admit that its business model is almost an exact replica of the earlier BountyQuest that failed miserably. Also a bit troubling is that Article One seems to position its services as a way to validate a patent, more than invalidate one. There are plenty of prior art search firms out there, so the only really different thing happening here is the company trying to jump on the “crowdsourced” bandwagon.

This particular announcement is also a little underwhelming. The company’s press release loudly declares that it’s succeeded in dredging up some prior art for a lawsuit involving Garmin and patent holding firm SPT. That seemed mighty fast — and, indeed, there’s no evidence that this prior art means anything at all. The USPTO hasn’t looked at it. The patent hasn’t been changed or invalidated in any way. Basically, the company has something that it thinks is prior art, and is hoping that Garmin will now take it and use it to go through the process of trying to invalidate the patent. That may be useful to Garmin, but it seems a bit early to celebrate (and even earlier to give out huge cash awards to those who found the prior art). At least BountyQuest knew to wait until the USPTO actually used the prior art before handing out the bounty.

While I’m all for turning up prior art and busting bogus patents, something about this whole thing feels more like a big publicity stunt than anything truly useful.

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Companies: article one

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Comments on “Article One Hypes Up Maybe Finding Prior Art That Might Possibly Invalidate A Patent?”

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Ricky Roberson says:

My Perspective

Hi Mike –

I’m one of the two people who received a cash award from AOP on their Garmin patent study, and thought you might be interested in my perspective.

I came across the original AOP press release on Slashdot announcing 20 different studies they were offering a “bounty” on for finding invalidating prior art. I looked at all 20 studies to pick one as a project and realized the task AOP had set out was actually extremely daunting. Half the studies were health oriented, primarily on exotic pharmaceutical compounds, and half were technological, primarily the intricacies of consumer electronics. Many had multiple patents, and the rules were that all patents in a study had to be invalidated by prior art before an award would be given. I almost walked away from this as a mission : impossible.

Eventually I chose the Garmin study to concentrate on because it was a recent single patent from what seemed to be a small-time inventor on what seemed to be an obvious item I knew had been widely used for over a decade – a touchscreen keyboard. And indeed, I quickly found and submitted dozens of prior examples of this technology with only basic searching, all basically leftovers from the pen computer / tablet computer boom of the early 1990s. One of these examples was deemed good enough to win an AOP prize.

Now what was my motivation for undertaking this search? Money, plain and simple. AOP got my attention with a short term deadline of 60 days to submit potential prior art and then allowing me to immediately start hoping for a nice fat check in my mailbox.

Would I have been so motivated, and expended the burst of research effort I did, if I had to wait for the USPTO to examine my findings and validate a cash prize? The same USPTO that takes literally years to approve the very patents I was seeing with my own eyes? No Way. No wonder BountyQuest went bust if THAT was their motivator.

Just like AOP researched and presented multiple study challenges so that they would by the law of averages include a few winnable ones, just like they did what was required with their multiple press release strategy to cut thru the choking kudzu of media overload to get journalist attention and media coverage, so have they found a way to motivate multiple people to go and quickly find prior art that’s worth a second look as input in ongoing high-stakes patent litigation. This is all no small accomplishment.

As to the value of the AOP business model and whether or not it results in anything of value, the ongoing Garmin trial is on public record. It will be easy enough to wait and see if Garmin submits the patent I identified as relevant evidence. If they do, THAT will be something to blog about.

In the meantime, what have I learned? Both companies and prior art patent researchers that push on broad fronts as a strategy to ensure there’s a breakthrough someplace, somewhere on the line they’ve chosen to assault have a name. They’re called winners.

crashoverride says:

Why not create a website that has mini X-prize like competition contests. Say a company is getting sued and needs prior art puts up a bounty for the masses to solve the crime for them. By developing a prior art community you could tap into a mass that’s collective experience and knowledge would solve many of the prior art issues. For cheaper and only if prior art is discovered.

Erik Sherman (profile) says:

“We were a bit skeptical, and found it odd that the company seems to not want to admit that its business model is almost an exact replica of the earlier BountyQuest that failed miserably.”

I cover high tech at BNET and spoke with the company’s president, who brought up the BountyQuest example herself. So saying that it doesn’t want to admit to this doesn’t sound accurate in my experience.

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