Joff Wild

Article One Partners, the New York-based crowd sourcing company which numbers ex-IBM and Microsoft IP boss Marshall Phelps among its directors, has opened three studies on patents owned by NTP. You'll recall that NTP is the non-practising entity that famously won a settlement payment of over $600 million from RIM following litigation concerning the Blackberry. Since 2006, it has also launched actions in the Eastern District of Virginia against 13 well-known players in the mobile communications sector, including Apple, AT&T, Google , HTC, Microsoft, Motorola, Palm, T-Mobile and Yahoo!

The idea behind Article One is that it invites its worldwide community of researchers to look for prior art tat could potentially read on specified patents. It is commissioned to do this by third-party companies - often those engaged in litigation and/or re-examination proceedings. Researchers that come up with information that can be used by these parties receive a cash reward, which can be up to $50,000. The NTP patents under scrutiny - NTP 670, NTP 946 and NTP 960 - carry prizes of $10,000, $10,000 and $15,000 respectively.

When I was over in New York recently I met with Cheryl Milone and Paul DiGiammarino of Article One. They told me that the company's client base is already 60 strong among which are 12 Fortune 100 businesses. In more than 50% of the projects they have been commissioned to do researchers have uncovered information that was not previously known ad by the end of this year Article One expects to have paid out around $1 million in rewards to its community.

Although Article One's press release does not say it, I would be surprised if it was not one, some or all of the 13 companies defending against NTP in the Eastern District of Virginia that have requested these studies. NTP will be hoping that nothing turns up.