• Essays & Articles
  • w: Nelson/Roberto

    Crowd-Funding Consulting:
    Operation
    Ninja S.T.A.R.
    (2013)

    In early 2013 I got a message from someone who worked at a company called Article One Partners. They were patent research firm that was interested in running a crowd-funding campaign to fight so-called patent trolls. A “patent troll” is a company that buys up old or unused software patents and then uses those patents to sue other businesses, as a way of extorting money from them. A.O.P. was hoping to use crowdfunding as a way to raise awareness for the issue, contribute to the public good, and boost their brand. At the time I knew nothing about the patent systems, I thought it would be an interesting challenge, so we agreed to work together.

    Initially, the company wanted to do a project where they nullify a patent troll by taking disproving its validity in court. A.O.P. used a network of patent researchers to find what is called “Prior Art.” Patents are supposed to be issued only to unique ideas, so if someone can find evidence that the ideas contained in the patent existed in the public domain before the patent was granted, then it can be struck down in court. The challenge to this approach is not in finding prior evidence but from the legal fees which can easily reach over $100,000. It is these extraordinarily high legal fees that let patent trolls can stay in business because it is cheaper to settle with them, then to fight them in court.I knew from the research I had done for A Kickstarter’s Guide that around 90% of projects raise $10,000 or less. I explained that raising over $100,000 for a project as complicated as patent reform would be extremely challenging, even if it was for a good cause. Not wanting to abandon the project I suggested they develop a database of

    I knew from the research I had done for A Kickstarter’s Guide that around 90% of projects raise $10,000 or less. I explained that raising over $100,000 for a project as complicated as patent reform would be extremely challenging, even if it was for a good cause. Not wanting to abandon the project I suggested they develop a database of Prior Art. The idea was that Article One might not be able to take patent trolls to court, but they could provide the prior art to people or companies being sued by patent trolls. Structuring the project this way would bring the cost down to around $17,000 per patent, a much more reasonable goal.

    With our project defined, we began work on the campaign. I helped A.O.P. shoot the project video, come up with rewards, and plan the launch. As we were getting everything ready President Obama started talking about patent trolls and this obscure topic was all over the news. We were all excited about the potential of the campaign and even had some big interviews lined up in major press outlines. Then, due to forces beyond our control, the project had to be put on hold, and the launch was canceled. We did eventually launch the campaign in December of that same year, but by that time press had moved on and we had lost our momentum.

    While the project ultimately was not successful it was a great experience that taught me just about any subject, no matter how complex, can be boiled down to about 500 words.

    Operation Ninja S.T.A.R: More innovation, less litigation.

    You may have heard that so-called “patent trolls” are wrecking havoc on our economy. Even the President is worried about them! If you do not know what they are, here is a good place to start. The prospect that you might be sued for offering Wi-Fi in your cafe, hooking up a scanner to your computer, or producing a podcast is just preposterous and frightening!

    The most frustrating thing about patent trolls is that you cannot do anything about them.

    But what if we could?

    We are Article One Partners, a 35-person company with a global community of patent researchers (aka “Patent Ninjas”), who believe that we can strengthen the patent system by investigating the quality of issued patents. Our Patent Ninjas scour the globe for evidence that proves certain patents are not unique.

    So what do we want to do?

    We want to set up a repository of free world-class information and advice to help start-ups or small companies that may be threatened by litigation over a patent. We are calling it the Startup Troll Attack Resource or Ninja S.T.A.R. for short.

    You see, the value of a patent is that it is unique. If you can prove it isn’t, the troll loses its power. Our project is to find evidence that these patents aren’t unique, and then provide it to companies that are being sued.

    As reported in the NYTimes, one “patent troll” threatened to sue 8,000 coffee shops, hotels and retailers because they had set up Wi-Fi networks for their customers. Imagine the multiplied impact if we could invalidate just that one patent.

    So what do we need?

    For every $15,000 we raise, valuable information about another patent can be added to the Ninja S.T.A.R. When a company is being sued, they will be given access to the repository and offered:

    1. Access to any documents or art work related to the patent’s validity.
    2. A written legal opinion based on the evidence, created with our partners.
    3. A consultation with our CEO, Cheryl Milone, a registered patent attorney, about how to use the evidence.

    We’re operating at cost – but legal opinions and good worldwide research are not cheap. That’s why we’re turning to you, to help us to provide this information for free to those at risk and who can’t otherwise afford it.

    So where to start?

    First, we are going to research the validity of Personal Audio’s podcasting patent. If you haven’t heard, they are suing anyone that operates a podcast for profit. This American Life reports that it can cost defendants $2 to $5 Million simply to confront this type of lawsuit. How can the average person who just wants to make show about a topic they love defend themselves?

    After that we will examine other low-quality patents. To decide which ones we are going after, we have established a panel of experts including people from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the App Developer Alliance and more (link to list).

    So what can I do?

    Backing this project will provide a huge benefit to small companies and start-ups. Everyone talks about how unfair the current patent system is, but we want to DO something about it. If you believe these legal battles are both a waste of time and a drain on resources, we hope you will back this project.

    1135 words

    8.3.17

    Nelson/RobertoSeparated from my family during El Salvador's civil war, by death and adoption, I was reunited with them at the age of 16. I do entrepreneurial art projects that are meaningful, relevant, and push me creatively.

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    Adventures in Web Hosting:
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    (2016 – Present)

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    Nelson/Roberto

    Nelson/Roberto

    My name is Nelson de Witt, but I was born Roberto Coto. Separated from my birth family during El Salvador’s civil war, by death and adoption, I was reunited with them at the age of 16.

    I’m a jack of all trades that has done everything from business process design to video production to server administration to film photography. I’ve run, consulted on, and wrote a book about Crowdfunding campaigns. I’ve taught myself everything from Ruby on Rails to narrative story structure.

    What do all these things have in common?

    I’m a skilled problem solver who can tackle complex issues and find solutions that combine art with outcomes.

    Chapter I: Reunion

    Ana & Isabel’s Reunion

    Misfit Con: A Home for Dreams, Doers, and Makers

    Why you should support (and share) your friend’s work.

    You are not a failure…

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