Can Crowdsourcing Help Small Businesses Kill The Patent Troll?
As we have discussed to some length, patent trolls have tormented many small business owners. Small business owners and entrepreneurs move forward with the startup aspirations thanks in part to what they feel is some sort of unique innovation or advantage that they can sell as a product or service. Unfortunately, many key components can unknowingly be based on or are legally similar enough to past inventions that were patented. This is where the patent trolls come in. They hunt for people unknowingly violated obscure patents and then use scare tactics to muscle them into paying up a fine. However, many of these patents are weak and “invalid”. This means the patents that the trolls try to use are themselves invalid because that work can be shown to be from a previous derivation. The problem is, once someone is charged with a violation, they only have 22.5 hours to find a reason for it to be invalid. That is not nearly enough time to scour the whole planet and in every language for past patents that might win your case.
This is where crowdsourcing comes in. Crowdsourcing, in this case, is when you use large groups of people on the internet to simultaneously do the same job which will likely speed up the “seek time” it takes to find what you are looking for. Specifically, a new site called Ask Patents has tons of people searching for the patents you hope to find. Does it work? Yes! It isn’t perfect and there are no guarantees of course but a mere 6 hours after starting the site the crowd successfully found the wanted patent for a submitted case. Digital Trends continues, ““We officially opened [Ask Patents] to the public on September 20, at about 10 a.m. Eastern. And at September 20 at 4 p.m. Eastern — so, you know, six hours after we put this site up to the public — a guy put up piece of prior art that is exactly what Microsoft is trying to patent, and pre-dates Microsoft’s filing by two years,” said Miller in an interview with Digital Trends. “It took six hours for the model to get proven out.” What next? The goal, says Miller, is to clean up the patent system to the point where so-called patent trolls — companies who make money by purchasing patents for the purpose of suing, or threatening to sue, other companies for infringement — no longer have any bad patents to use against others. “Basically, one of the goals of Ask Patents is to cut off [patent trolls'] access to a supply of bad patents,” said Miller. “‘Cause if they don’t have that, they have nothing to sue over…”“
Source - Digital Trends