Crowdsourcing: Innovation and Intellectual Property

Thirty years ago, in 1975, intangible assets made up less than 20% of the market value of S&P 500 companies. Today that proportion is estimated to be 80% or higher. A significant amount of this intangible value is represented by intellectual property, and more specifically patented technologies. With patent value forming a core part of market capitalization, patent quality is crucial, both to patent owners but also for the legal system and to the economy as a whole. Unfortunately, over the last five years, the rising rate of patent litigation has become a burden on the system and illustrated that patent quality in the US is not currently everything that might be desired. That is where Patexia comes in.

Patexia is an online crowdsourcing platform connecting IP intensive organizations to a community of around 10,000 global subject matter experts who help them better assess and manage their IP portfolios. Patexia uses technology and the strength of crowdsourcing to improve the intellectual property system through patent validity analysis and a variety of other IP services.

It is impossible for any single Individual to be knowledgeable in every field or speak every language fluently. Even large companies, or organizations such as the USPTO with diverse employees have limits. However, a global crowd breaks these barriers. If a patent is given to the crowd for analysis, they can search for knowledge across industries and languages. In combination, the solutions they propose go beyond what a traditional approach can hope to capture. In the realm of IP, in depth patent review not only helps our clients, but also contributes to creating a stronger patent system with higher patent quality and a lower burden on the legal system.

The USPTO is the arbiter of patent quality, but in recent years the pressure on the organization and its examiners has grown steadily. Despite many qualified examiners working diligently, after granting roughly 300,000 new patents in fiscal year 2014, the USPTO is still left with a backlog of more than 600,000 unexamined applications. In addition to the sheer volume of applications, the rate of innovation continues to increase making it nearly impossible for any individual examiner to stay abreast of the constant changes and new technologies in each field. The prior art search is where these issues become especially critical. The average patent application gets 19 hours of examination time, including the time spent searching for prior art, or any reference showing that a new invention is not novel. However, frequently key references can only be found in non-patent-literature or foreign language documents not easily accessible to an examiner.

Crowdsourcing offers an efficient way to complete patent validity searches more thoroughly and efficiently. Clients come to Patexia with an IP problem, and Patexia acts as a bridge between the client and the global community. The Patexia team translates a legal issue into technical language accessible to a community of subject matter experts and posts it in a contest format. Members compete to provide the best art and Patexia gathers their responses, creating a coherent report to return to the client. Patexia has also presented at two USPTO roundtables discussing how crowdsourcing can be a productive tool to aid patent examiners in their review process, strengthening the system from the outset.

By using its platform to offer more reliable and in-depth IP research through crowdsourcing, Patexia leverages the power of technology in the legal field to promote efficiency and drive innovation. Patexia also offers unique opportunities to students and professionals both inside and beyond the legal field. Students can participate in crowdsourced studies for a chance to hone their skills and earn a share of the contest prize. Patexia can also partner with professors to design private studies tailored to individual courses, giving students a chance to gain knowledge and experience through submission and peer review.