Perhaps the most compelling tips from our step-by-step guide to slaughtering patent trolls are to “do your research” and to “team up with other companies fighting the same troll.” Not because they’re new ideas, but because the same tactics have been employed in global conflicts and schoolyard squabbles for years.
Article One Partners (AOP) was founded based on both principles. The patent research company tasks some 27,000 independent researchers with scouring the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)’s records in search of prior art that can make or break a patent dispute.
Cheryl Milone, a patent attorney, founded AOP after dealing with the frustration known as the USPTO’s records system in the late ’90s, which she described as being “back in the dinosaur days.”
“Here I am, looking at the most advanced disc drives at the time, and I’m sitting there in dusty old hallways looking at dusty old patents,” Milone says. “We have this system — which is supposed to advance technology — being supported by antiquated tools.”
Things haven’t improved much. The USPTO website seems like it was last updated back when GeoCities was still a thing. The search bar on its homepage returns odd, often-inactive results. Its step-by-step guide to preliminary patent research is an animated PowerPoint presentation that takes 36 mind-numbing minutes to watch.
It’s easier — though obviously more expensive — to entrust the job to AOP’s researchers, which are paid between $3,000 and $5,000 per job. (The company has paid over $4.5 million to its researchers since its founding in 2008.) AOP doesn’t simply cater to startups, either: as Bloomberg Businessweek reported in January, companies like Philips, Sony, and Microsoft have also turned to the company during patent disputes.
Milone hopes that providing easy access to these researchers can help companies dispute claims from patent trolls and consequently improve the patent system itself. Transparency, she says, is the key.
“If there’s transparency, while market transactions — including litigation — will continue to occur, they will be less frequent,” Milone says. “Then we can get closer to what the patent system was meant to do, which is innovation rather than litigation.”
AOP is unlikely to enact that change by itself. The patent system is a sprawling, centuries-old entity that needs to continually change as the technological and business worlds change around it. The company and its crowd of researchers might just assist in the slaughter of a few patent trolls, though.
* The PandoDaily series “Patent Troll Smackdown” is brought to you by the Application Developers Alliance. To join the fight against patent trolls and tell Congress that innovators need patent reform please visit devsbuild.it/fightpatenttrolls. (Sponsored message.)
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