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You know about patent trolls -- owners of questionable patents who file frequent frivolous lawsuits, often looking for a quick settlement from their corporate targets. We've seen patent trolls go after hapless wankers, giant companies like Apple and AT&T, and everyone who's ever used a firewall.
Now, Patexia, an intellectual property company that relies on crowdsourced subject matter expertise, is looking to help companies fight back. Patexia recently launched a "Coalition Funding Initiative" to help companies threatened by frivolous patent litigation share costs and knock out potential threats through inter partes review.
Crowdsourced IP Work
Here's how Patexia works. The platform brings together paying companies and subject matter "experts." The experts monitor patent filings and litigation, analyze the validity of patents, and compete in competitions. There's even a Patexia leaderboard, showing the users with the most "Patexia points." Think of it as a nerdier, somewhat game-ified Wikipedia. Patexia claims that its "crowdsourced patent analysis techniques" have a 75 percent success rate.
Crowdsourcing has become increasingly legitimate in recent years. The process, where companies turn to the public for information, ideas, or funding, has brought us innovations such as Wikipedia. (It's also responsible for paying some guy $55,000 to make a potato salad, so it's not exactly a perfect system.) Now, more institutionalized actors are increasingly adopting crowdsourcing. NASA is looking to crowdsourcing for "outside-the-box thinking about human space exploration." The USPTO is looking at using crowdsourcing to identify relevant prior art when examining patents.
Not a Crowd, a Coalition
When it comes to litigation, Patexia is looking for coalitions, rather than crowds. Its coalition initiative is looking to bring companies together to share costs in fighting patent limitation. That fight will largely consist of inter partes review. IPR allows third parties to challenge the validity of patents for inventions which are not novel, already patented, or too obvious.
A release from Patexia explains that the company will monitor patent litigation and contact companies facing frivolous litigation. As a third party, it would then pursue IPR, attempting to get rid of the patent. Signing up will cost companies "as little as $50,000," which is certainly less than the typical patent suit costs. If the idea works, it could provide an important buffer against patent trolls by eliminating some of their strongest weapons: bad patents.