NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - Dec 10, 2013) - Article One Partners (AOP), the world's largest patent research community, today announced a new initiative to help start-ups defend against patent trolls. The initiative, "Operation Ninja S.T.A.R.," will create a database of world-class evidence and business advice around specific, potentially invalid patents. This resource will be made available to any small company being attacked by a patent troll. By using crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, AOP aims to raise a minimum goal of $17,500 by January 10th to begin this initiative. When contributions exceed the initial crowdfunding goal, evidence for additional patents will be added to the repository.

To start, the campaign will investigate the validity of U.S. patent 8,180,858, which involves an "apparatus and method that employs selectable and modifiable animation to collect data related to the choices made by the users of an information network." The patent is owned by Treehouse Avatar Technologies. Beginning in July 2013, Treehouse has sued a number of companies over this patent, including making a large number of patent assertions against small companies in the summer of 2013. Defendants include a number of small, independent game developers like Bad Pug Games, the creator of "Starpires," and medium-sized companies including Turbine Entertainment, creator of the popular "Dungeons and Dragons" game.

Treehouse Avatar Technologies is a patent owner that uses questionable business practices to sue other companies for infringing its patents. Patent trolls have rendered a number of start-ups powerless against their aggressive suits. Typically, they force the defendants to settle, causing start-ups to divert valuable funding before they can even get their companies off the ground. AOP hopes to stop this mounting problem. 

Using its community of "patent ninjas," or international patent researchers, Article One Partners plans to investigate the quality of issued patents through extensive research. The "ninjas" will search resources across the globe in pursuit of evidence proving that certain patents are not unique -- therefore making them invalid and not usable for attacks by patent trolls.

This evidence will be collected into a database of world-class evidence and general business advice that AOP will make available to help start-ups or small companies who may be threatened over a patent. The repository will be referred to as the Start-up Troll Attack Resource, or "Ninja S.T.A.R." for short. When a start-up is sued, they can refer to the "Ninja S.T.A.R." for support.

When a company is being threatened, they will be given access to the database and offered:
1. Access to any documents or art work related to the patent's validity
2. A list identifying the strongest results from the research based on the relevance to the claims
3. A consultation with Article One Partners founder and chairwoman Cheryl Milone, a registered patent attorney, who can act as an expert consultant to the legal team

If the initial crowdfunding goal is exceeded, additional contributions will fund additional research to collect evidence related to other threatening patents. All additional evidence will be added to the Ninja S.T.A.R. repository. Beyond the initial patent, a panel of experts will assist AOP in determining the most critical patents to study. The panel includes:

As a start-up company itself, AOP believes that other start-ups deserve a fair chance at entrepreneurial success without the challenge of litigation from a troll wielding a potentially invalid patent. This program will help mitigate the initial and substantial cost of dealing with these patent trolls when they come knocking, saving start-ups valuable resources and helping them frame a strategy to respond more efficiently. "Operation Ninja S.T.A.R." seeks to raise funds necessary to accomplish the goal while also offering an opportunity for people to get personally involved in shutting down patent trolls and improving the patent system.

While many in the IP space frequently point out problems with the current patent system, Article One Partners is one of the few taking action to correct these issues. Learn more about Operation Ninja S.T.A.R. and contribute to the campaign here.

About Article One Partners
Article One Partners (AOP) is the world's largest patent research community. The company posts crowdsourced requests for patent research to its global community in exchange for premium compensation. AOP clients include 18 of the top 25 companies most frequently targeted by non-practicing entities, 57 Forbes Global 2000, 14 Fortune 100 companies, 7 of the top 10 U.S. patent filers and premier international law firms.

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Mikaela Tierney