Marshall Phelps here, looking forward to answering your questions. I am Skyping with my colleagues David and Sabrina who will help transcribe. Ask away, Reddit!

*I am the former Head of Intellectual Property (IP) for both IBM and Microsoft and current CEO of Article One Partners. My bio:

*AOP crowdsources patent research from 35,000 users in 170 countries. This intelligence is used to help defend companies being sued by patent trolls/ resolve patent quality issues.

*Patent trolls:

*Prior art: This is what the researchers submit to our platform and helps invalidate a patent troll’s “claim” to a technology, described here by Tom


*Info on the researchers they are rewarded for the most useful references

*If you want to research click here

Proof tweet:

EDIT: Thank you Reddit for the excellent questions. There are still so many good ones left unanswered, so we will have our CPO Peter Vanderheyden "PeterVanderheyden" answer a few of the ones Marshall couldn't get to. His bio:

Comments: 87 • Responses: 26  • Date: 

TheSirBrothers8 karma

Came prepared and getting in early since I have a bunch of questions!

First and foremost, I want to say thank you, to both you and the AOP team, for giving me the opportunity to hone my research skills and make some extra money while doing it. As an active researcher on the AOP platform I've had some success and was wondering the following:

  1. At the risk of opening the floodgates of competition, have you considered advertising to law students about research opportunities? Going into my 3L year, my only regret is that I didn't find out about this sooner, and I only discovered it by accident. I was reading an article by Cheryl Milone on patent troll defense and I thought it sounded like an interesting concept. I only mention this because it seems like such an untapped demographic for this type of work. What law student wouldn't want to make some extra cash while developing a necessary career skill? Platform wins, which are visible to all on the winners page, can even be used as resume boosters.

  2. What is AOP actively doing to grow their client base, the platform, and their researcher base? The EOU and patent-to-standards mappings seem like a great asset to businesses (as long as they aren't using them to assert unnecessary infringement claims -- a worry of mine, since we never get to interface with the clients) looking to monetize something they already own a right to.

  3. Are you planning to launch any new types of studies (don't need specifics necessarily, if it's too early, but just a "yes" or a "no" would suffice)?

  4. Does AOP have any plans to extend their services to litigation, or services typical to that of a boutique IP firm?

  5. How different is your day-to-day at AOP, versus what you did at Microsoft and IBM?

  6. As someone looking to take the patent bar and break into the IP law world, what is the best advice you can offer? Given the recent activity in the Supreme Court and the Federal Circuit, do you still see the prospect of IP Law as a good career choice?

MarshallPhelps2 karma

Great questions. 1. This is a great idea, we should also think about doing this with engineering schools as well 2. It is our hope that over time there will be much more interaction between researchers between the end use clients 3. Yes - we are having meetings about that 4. We do not intend to be actively involved in litigation 5. Well, the answer is IBM and Microsoft are massive organizations and I had hundreds of people reporting to me, this is a small organization with an enormous network, so the management issues are entirely different 6. It's obvious you are planning to be a lawyer, of all the law fields you are picking the best one and certainly the one most connected to the economic growth of the country

smalltomatoes_1 karma

You mention that you do not plan to be actively involved in litigation - are there other methods of challenging patents?

MarshallPhelps1 karma

Yes, the patent office now allows for early challenges to patent applications anonymously. These are called pre- and post-grant submissions.

_LMiller7 karma

How did you learn to swim so fast? What have you done with all your gold medals?

MarshallPhelps5 karma

Wrong Phelps!

orangejulius5 karma

How does distributing the burden of research reduce the cost to companies being sued by patent trolls?

Are the researchers just doing prior art searches or is there more required out of them?

What's the competition like for having 'winning' research to get a reward?

This is probably the most interesting idea I've seen on Reddit.

MarshallPhelps2 karma

Another good question.

The real value of the AOP research model is that it broadens the research to include multiple languages in over 170 countries, at a competitive price to what existing research is at a much more limited scope.

It is our hope that as we become more sophisticated our researchers will have much greater involvement with the specific companies and broaden their activity beyond just research.

The client picks the winner based on the description of what they're looking for - the reference that most closesly matches the research project description and fits with their research needs. Historically, that tends to be unique references, such as non-patent literature (articles, business material, etc.) or non-English documents (patents from around the globe), since so few actually check these resources when getting a patent. The best bet for winning a study is to find the most unique, on-target reference.

Thanks so much for your questions and the kind words.

nu11pointer4 karma

What's the most ridiculous software patent you've come across?

MarshallPhelps8 karma

I can answer that: What about one that taught the best way to queue in an airplane to go to the bathroom.

mt9093 karma

Are there any major changes you would make to the patent system?

MarshallPhelps3 karma

Yes here's one: I'd like to consider broader use of the "english rule" which means that in cases where unjustified lawsuits are brought, the plaintiff ends up paying the cost of the defendant.

mlcliff3 karma

Do you think government actions (USPTO) efforts to curb abusive patent troll practices is making a difference?

MarshallPhelps1 karma

I think the collective efforts of the three branches of government will probably make a difference over time. In my personal opinion, the litigation business model is a poor business model generally.

joecity8563 karma

Has the AIA done enough to protect inventors from patent trolls?

MarshallPhelps1 karma

The AIA has very little to do with patent trolls - the answer is probably not. And thats the reason you still see reservations about

I don't see much effect from the AIA on the patent troll situation. The goal of the AIA is not really to deal with patent trolls. It was to reconcile the US patent system with international patent systems of the world, meaning we became a first to file system like all other systems in the world.

anonsonnet3 karma

can law school students (especially those with an interest in patents) use success on the Article One platform to add to their resumes for jobs?

MarshallPhelps1 karma

I would hope so! Especially if you're a successful researcher.

Veboy2 karma

Hey !

So, since you are fighting patent trolls, what's your advice for average Jane and Joe to help you in this fight ? Is it even possible ?

Also if you were to name a troll patent "the jerk-est one", who/what would you choose ?

MarshallPhelps2 karma

At the end of the day, this is as much a political question as it is a legal one. Since everyone has congressional representatives, it doesn't hurt to urge them to focus on the question of patent quality. The patent system is probably the most important job creation mechanism every devised by humankind. It's well over 200 years old!

SkeletorSwag2 karma

How did you get that job? The most recent one.

MarshallPhelps1 karma

I've been a long-standing board member of Article One and the Board asked me if I would take this job in October of 2013.

Isaacmo2 karma

What happens to the suits placed by the patent trolls? Are they subjected to legal fees?

MarshallPhelps1 karma

Only in exceptional circumstances. But generally no

SmileySurbo2 karma

Are patent trolls all the same? Reading things in the press it seems that patent wars are not just trolls?

MarshallPhelps2 karma

No, patent trolls are not all the same and like any definition there is a spectrum of activity that varies. And it is true that patent wars are not just about trolls. Certainly when Apple and Samsung sue each other for patent infringement that is not a troll activity.

ilovecats52 karma

What's your favorite Bill Gates story from your time spent working with him at Microsoft?

MarshallPhelps4 karma

There are a lot of them. I've got a good one: when we were doing a "forward patenting session" in 2003, Bill walked in and announced that he was thinking of something called cloud computing but had no idea what it meant. And we went from there. That was 11 and a half years ago and cloud computing is now all over the place

anonsonnet2 karma

Terrific stuff, now who invented the internet?

MarshallPhelps3 karma

Al Gore :)

ktnyc20141 karma

Great story!! Any funny ones from your time at IBM?

MarshallPhelps2 karma

We had a very similar event involving Lou Gershner and the Internet. He asked a similar question, "What is this internet thing? Do we have any patents there?" And we didn't so we put a full court press on, that has served IBM very well since.

Unremoved1 karma

As a joe-schmoe, if I want to obtain a utility patent without getting mired in patent lawyer red tape, or risking IP infringement or possible lawsuits, what are my best options? How can the little guy compete against some of the big guys?

MarshallPhelps3 karma

First, I'm glad you're thinking about using the system because it is important. But I think at the end of the day, you're going to have to talk to an IP lawyer at some point so that you get the most out of your idea going forward.

Shugbug19861 karma

What all needs to be done about both patents and copyright? We've seen both cripple change and innovation in the past few years, but why is it so damn hard to fix?

MarshallPhelps2 karma

I'm not sure I necessarily agree with your premise, but that said, the reason it is so difficult to change the system is because there are many different economic interests at play. It's a case of follow the money.

anonsonnet1 karma

How can the public feel good about the US patent system again with the first time many entrepreneurs come in contact with patent system, it is with a letter from someone with an office with no lights and no one home?

MarshallPhelps1 karma

What we're trying to do -- we're all about patent quality. If we do a good job on patent quality, then patents get equated to innovation and invention, which is the lifeblood of entrepreneurs.

ankyle1 karma


MarshallPhelps1 karma

We'd love to help him out - do you have any ideas?

sarahbotts1 karma

How did you originally get into this line of work?

MarshallPhelps3 karma

In the very early 90s, IBM was in desperate need of a financial invigoration. And I thought that the intellectual assets of IBM were undervalued, and needed to be featured and utilized, and that's what I did.

ktnyc20141 karma

As the CEO at Article One and a member of so many Boards (IPXI, etc.), how do you even find time to sleep??

MarshallPhelps2 karma

It's a spot on question - sleep 4 or 5 hours a day

paolonya1 karma

What's the most interesting lesson you have learned in crowdsourcing? It seems that crowdsourcing is an obvious and potential solution to the issue of patent quality. Are patent offices using crowdsourcing to address patent quality issues?

MarshallPhelps2 karma

Most interesting lesson I learned in crowdsourcing is how good it is, which is the truth. Because it finds things like non-patent literature in multiple languages that aren't available in routine database searches that are conducted in patent offices and law firms. The White House and the US Patent Office have expressed considerable interest in using crowdsourcing to address patent quality issues and we are a willing partner in that effort.

Tallon51 karma

Is it possible to get a reward for unique research found if your only language is English? I imagine that being multilingual would be a great asset since you could look through patents in other countries.

MarshallPhelps2 karma

Of course. Because no one has the ability to know everything that exists in any particular language. Do you think non-patent literature in English is all in a database somewhere? No. We've had lots of winners who have found information in English from stuff just sitting around in their basements.

berricks0 karma

Did the idea for Intellectual Ventures come from your work at IBM and Microsoft?

MarshallPhelps1 karma

No, it didn't.

BrandonRSteer0 karma

Did you work with Mojang to help when they had a patent troll attacking MineCraft?

MarshallPhelps2 karma

We can't comment on any specific situate due to confidentiality. However, we have worked in almost every litigation scenario imaginable in the IP world.