The definite Article?

The IPKat's eye was attracted to a US media release, "Article One Announces Completion of Funding from Alleghany Corporation". The release brings news that Article One Partners, said to be "the world’s largest patent research community", has just completed a $5 million round of institutional funding with Alleghany Corporation's subsidiary, Alleghany Capital Corporation. The cash
"... will be used to further consolidate the firm’s leading position in the global online patent validation sector by enhancing existing products and services, developing new ones and accelerating sales".
What exactly is it that Article One does? According to the media release, its community of millions of researchers
" ... gathers patent validity evidence, discovered from around the world, with a speed and depth that traditional patent research can’t match. The community’s ability to access research in many languages, as well as its access to non-digitized publications, produces a quality of research that only human knowledge experts can achieve".
Says the IPKat, Article One's major asset appears to be the ability to wave the name of legendary patent policy guru Marshall Phelps around. Apart from being a Board Member, he is also said to be making his own substantial investment in this round.

Adds Merpel, I think, if I've understood this right, that what these researchers do is gather evidence of patent invalidity, since you can't really gather evidence of validity: it's like proving a negative ("not anticipated by the prior art", "not obvious" ...) and they get rewards of $5,000 to $50,000 per research project, plus a slice of corporate profit-share. Or have I missed something?
The definite Article? The definite Article? Reviewed by Jeremy on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 Rating: 5


  1. If these people can do the job they claim to, and can do it efficiently and profitably, I'd expect the European Patent Office to outsource some of its patent search work to them.

  2. Hm. As I understand it, the major asset of Article One seems to be its platform and community. It seems to be like wikipedia in a way -- accessing many people to provide information in a way that hasn't been done before. Seems interesting.

  3. To the Joker: what makes you think the ArticleOne communities don't include little groups of European Patent Office examiners, who can grant patents by day and sabotage them by night? Who better to do the job? And they're multilingual!

  4. Jeremy, I appreciate your thoughtful post.  I always like to hear other people's perspective.  I am the founder and CEO of Article One -- and a patent attorney for 19 years -- and wanted to take a moment to share my thoughts.

    Our model is a great way to find patent validity evidence, or prior art.  We are taking something that is already being done (prior art research) and innovating around it to provide a more comprehensive way to look for this prior art.  The most important differentiator from traditional approaches is the systematic reach full texts of foreign language publications.  Western language digitized databases contain only the abstracts of foreign language publications.  The AOP community reaches into the full text, footnotes and tables and figures (areas that also are not digitized).  Our research projects (called Studies) are translated into 8 foreign languages to drive touch points by native language speakers.

    As I'm sure you know, companies and law firms already look for prior art for many reasons.  Sometimes it is to find invalidity (a party will look to invalidate a patent asserted against them) and state of the art collections to understand the technology related to client's own patents and strengthen their collections.  And, as our press release implies, we are excited to begin looking at other ways our community can help our clients.  

    Our community has been tremendous in efficiently finding high quality prior art for clients, and we have paid out $585,000 in the past 18 months for their efforts.  Better access to prior art means a stronger patent system.  I founded Article One to benefit patent holders by increasing the quality of their patents and benefit the public by offering them rewards to get involved and correct a system that if inaccurate, burdens them with monopoly pricing.  

    Again, I am always interested in hearing what others think of AOP and I look forward to staying engaged with you and your readers about our platform.

    Cheryl Milone

  5. As a one-time 'winner' of one of the projects posted by Articleone I can say, as any reader of the open list of projects can surmise, that the projects correspond to some of the hottest IP disputes out there, spanning the range of patented technologies of pharmaceuticals, mobile phones, electric cars, turbines and even some obscure ones such as washroom towel dispensers. I surmise, as the Articleone website or any communication with me has not otherwise specified, that the desperate subjects of trolling resort to what is effectively a bount-hunter approach to finding invalidating prior art. Lucky project winners can reap $5k to $50K if successful, an amount which is a couple of orders of magnitude less than a settlement for presumed infringement, and even allowing for the Articleone mark-up, it is still a good deal.
    But perhaps your query was directed more to their business model ? If so, I tend to agree that it lacks scalability, because, a reasonable mark-up would not constitute a significant revenue stream and they risk suffering the same fate of a failed predecessor "Patent Bounty Hunter" .


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