Unpatent Launches Combination Crowdfunding/Crowdsourcing Platform To Invalidate Stupid Patents
from the make-it-so dept
I’m always super interested in new ideas for hacking the patent system to get around just how broken it is — and the fact that Congress still seems to have no real desire to fix things — mainly because some of the largest patent system exploiters are standing in the way of necessary reform. So it’s always cool to hear of new ideas to try to fix things without having to bother with changing the law.
The latest interesting idea: Unpatent — a combination crowdfunding/crowdsourcing platform with the goal of invalidating stupid patents. Each stupid patent gets its own crowdfunding campaign, in which Unpatent looks to raise at least $20,000. This money does two things: it is used to pay for a legal challenge (a so-called “ex parte” challenge) of the patent at the Patent Office and to pay out rewards to those who find the compelling prior art to invalidate the patent. As you’ve likely figured out by now, that’s where the crowdsourcing comes in. Individuals can submit their own prior art examples, and if their examples are used in invalidating the patent, they can share in some of the money raised.
They’re kicking it off by challenging a patent on customizing stuff on the internet. It’s US Patent 8,738,435 on a “method and apparatus for presenting personalized content relating to offered products and services.” If that sounds familiar, it’s because it was EFF’s “Stupid Patent of the Month” back in February. The company holding this patent, Phoenix Licensing, has filed a bunch of troll lawsuits in (of course) the Eastern District of Texas.
I have no idea how well this will work, but it’s good to see experiments like this. It does remind me of two other projects. A few years back, StackExchange and Google teamed up to crowdsource prior art at AskPatents, which is still getting some use today, if not a tremendous amount. The other thing it reminds me of, is that way back in 2000, after Jeff Bezos faced a ton of criticism for Amazon’s “one-click” patent, Bezos and Tim O’Reilly teamed up to form BountyQuest, a system in which they would pay people who found prior art to destroy bad patents — with the one-click patent being the first one offered up. Unfortunately, basically nothing happened with BountyQuest, and just two years later it had basically faded away.
Luis Cuende, the founder of Unpatent, says that he thinks both the world has changed since Bezos and O’Reilly did BountyQuest, and that the overall setup of Unpatent may work better. It’s definitely an interesting approach — and they’ve got the support of Lee Cheng, Newegg’s Chief Legal Officer, who has made destroying patent trolls something of a personal hobby (he’s really, really, really good at it). Anyway, check out Unpatent, especially if you’ve got some good prior art on that customization patent…