Jack Ellis

Patent analytics firm IP CheckUps has announced that it will press ahead with creating a public database of the patent holdings of Intellectual Ventures (IV) and its subsidiaries, despite failing to meet the funding target it had set for the project. Dubbed 'NPE Tracker', the database will expand beyond the originally planned focus on IV to additionally investigate patent ownership and use of shell companies by other NPEs, including assertion entities, defensive aggregators and research institutions.

This blog previously reported on IP CheckUps’ campaign to finance the investigation into IV using the crowdfunding website Indiegogo. ‘Case IV Thicket’, as the project was entitled, had been pledged $13,580 by the time the funding window closed last week – well short of its $80,000 objective. In line with Indiegogo’s fundraising rules, this means that IP CheckUps gets none of the pledged money.

When IAM spoke to the firm’s managing director Matt Rappaport last month, he strongly hinted that the scheme may go ahead even if financial backing from the crowd could not be secured – and that IV would likely just be the starting point in an initiative to document wider NPE patent ownership.

As explored in the latest issue of IAM, one of the key advantages for businesses using crowdfunding – besides the investment opportunities – is that it offers an online platform from which companies can market their proposals for new products and services before they have even launched. Despite failing to meet its funding goal, IP CheckUps has certainly benefitted from the press coverage and public exposure that the campaign has generated. “Though we did not reach our funding targets, members of the patent community have offered free research services to further our investigation into non practicing entities,” said Lily Li, the firm’s director of marketing and business development, in a press release.

While many IP owners may have been uncomfortable with donating money to realise the proposal – perhaps because they didn’t want to upset their existing relationship with IV, or perhaps because they have used shell company tactics themselves – the fact that IP CheckUps has found the resources to push on indicates some significant support for the project. Opacity can be advantageous to some, but those in the IP community that are backing the database clearly believe that greater transparency will lead to a more efficient and liquid marketplace – something that will surely be better for the vast majority of participants.