India: Crowd Sourcing - A New Approach Towards Patents


In the contemporary time, use of technology for the purpose of research and study is at its extreme position. The introduction of various platforms for expression of ideas is also at its peak. The combination of two has led to the creation of a new podium for staging of ideas and that is crowd sourcing.

The term "Crowd-sourcing" is formed by the combination of the words "crowd" and "source". Crowd sourcing may be defined as the act of outsourcing task, to large group of peoples or community, to utilize the benefits of mass collaboration to reach a desired outcome.

From funding a new technology startup to finding the best new restaurant in the city, crowd sourcing has impacted how we locate information, make decisions, and it can make seemingly impossible tasks a reality. For example, websites such as and Yahoo Answers, influences the crowd to help answer user posed questions ranging from the esoteric to the basic. Kickstarter and Kiva persuade the crowd to fund entrepreneurial and charitable projects. While Yelp and Zagat use the wisdom of the crowd to help with your dining out decisions. X Prize competitions encourage and motivate the crowd to achieve space exploration and other scientific pursuits. The principles of crowdsourcing can be applied to obscure fields such as patents as well.1

Today, crowd-sourcing is one of the most developed tools used by IT industries, engineering and pharma knowledge base companies. These companies earn huge profits using crowd-sourcing as a business tool. Wikipedia is one of the best examples for crowd sourcing which uses this concept and is certainly spreading into other knowledge based industries such as the biomedical society. This article summarizes the basic concept of crowd sourcing, working methodology and its application in prospects of Patents.

Definition: Crowd Sourcing

A more complete definition of crowd sourcing as attributed to Arolas Estellés and Ladrón González may be stated as:

"... a type of participative online activity in which an individual, an institution, a non-profit organization, or company proposes to a group of individuals of varying knowledge, heterogeneity, and number, via a flexible open call, the voluntary undertaking of a task. The undertaking of the task, of variable complexity and modularity, and in which the crowd should participate bringing their work, money, knowledge and/or experience, always entails mutual benefit. The user will receive the satisfaction of a given type of need, be it economic, social recognition, selfesteem, or the development of individual skills, while the crowdsourcer will obtain and utilize to their advantage that what the user has brought to the venture, whose form will depend on the type of activity undertaken". 2

Crowd sourcing can be classified based on the task to be sourced to the crowd, how the crowd is utilized, or a combination of both. Wisdom of the crowd utilizes the crowd to contribute large amounts of information to solve a problem or to aggregate them to create a more complete and accurate picture of a topic (i.e.,InnoCentive, which 'enables scientists to receive professional recognition and financial awards for solving R&D challenges where solvers can submit solutions through the web which are reviewed by the seeker). 3

Crowd sourcing – Connected the power of volunteers.

Crowd sourcing is not a new phenomenon, many times we saw contest hosted by companies to award peoples who can bring a new idea, design a new logo, something which is new for that company or give a whacky, name, tagline etc. In these contests the winner will be only one or maximum two. But in this process company gets maximum cool ideas, knowledge and that is all free of cost. Crowd sourcing is the way to tap the power of masses, rather than getting the task done by employees or getting it outsourced, a company may ask the masses to do it. It is one of the business tools, where companies by using crowd sourcing earned huge profits. For example ARTICLE ONE PARTNERS (AOP), a company uses crowd sourcing to find prior art of patents for clients as well for specific patents targeted by AOP.

Advisors earn points for activity in the community, and those points can become cash at the end of the year. For advisors earning 1,000 points or more in a calendar year (just registering on the site yields 25 points), a profitsharing scheme offers 5% of net profits to be split between eligible advisors. In 2009 that amount was $25,000, split between hundreds of AOP advisors. 4 Today more than $520,000 has been awarded to community members. And this model is just gearing up. 5

Application of Crowd sourcing in IP

When an inventor submits a patent application, it needs to be researched fully to check the novelty of the application. The procedures performed for search can be extremely difficult and intense, and include such sources as text books, magazine articles, journals, Patent in other countries and newsletters. While this type of research is still specialized, in theory anyone can do searches for prior art using Google Patent Search, USPTO, and other sources. This is where Crowd sourcing comes in IP.

Various aspects of crowd sourcing can be applied to the patent lifecycle. In particular, one of the challenges that may hinder the quality of the patents is the difficulty in uncovering relevant prior art that could impact the patentability or validity of a claim. In the United States, the scope of prior art includes printed publications in this or a foreign country.6

How crowd sourcing is used in IP?

The methodology used to obtain a desired result in crowd sourcing follows three stages (i) the search for documentation on crowd sourcing via using systematic reviews of the literatures, (ii) creation of exhaustive definitions from search results and (iii) testing of its validity. 7

Many companies perform different aspects to use crowd sourcing as a business tool. An intellectual property research project is posted on various online portals where companies request references to similar solutions for example similar products, patent documents or academic research. Researchers look for relevant documents and links and post them to the IP research projects. Now after getting all references, researchers rate and comment on each other's references and tries to find most relevant solution. The researcher who submitted the most high relevancy references and provide the most valuable feedback on others prior art are rewarded.

Another model that successfully implemented in the IP-strategy actually used crowd sourcing. In this model, companies connect a community of solvers with seekers. Any individual may register as a solver. Solvers pay no fees, but most officially register for a challenge before they receive the full, confidential outline of the project, while seekers pay to register on the site and again to register each challenge.

If a problem is solved, pre-defined reward(s) is/are paid to one or more solvers out of the registration fee. Intellectual property is thus protected under secrecy agreements (formal registration for solvers) and transacted to the seeker as a reward is paid to a solver. When the company made a new discovery it posted the problem (not its solution/discovery). This way, the company was typically able to "purchase" additional solutions to the same problem by paying out rewards. An approach that was much cheaper than inventing these solutions in-house. Patent applications covering the various solutions would then be filed and consequently a much stronger position against invent around risks resulted.

After understanding the working formula of crowd sourcing in IP, it is believed that by adapting a global scale crowd-sourcing model, companies are able to give their clients right to use broader range of informative sources i.e. patent databases, academic databases etc, information in more languages, creative way of solving query and also bring down the cost effectively8. By adopting these models, it makes innovation process more effective and quicker and opens a door for inventors who can easily test the novelty of their invention with the help of huge mass of peoples, communities etc.

Some of the patent related crowd sourcing websites include, the Patent Busting Project by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the newly established Ask Patent Beta by Stack Exchange,Crowd IPR, the Peer-to-Patent project, and the Article One Partners platform. 9

Pros & Cons of Crowd sourcing

Crowd sourcing is considered to be an economical process, where research cost is very much lower as compared to the traditional research methods. In the process of crowd sourcing it is short span process where in a very short time, huge amount of research and data can be collected. This is a very collaborative process where huge numbers of peoples are working at same or different level and research or data obtained which turns out to be a profitable part for the company. In fact, there are numerous advantages such as a large pool of participant's leads to more ideas, which makes it like the flood of ideas where some are especially smart ones. Now considering the cons of crowd sourcing which directly come from the term "crowdsourcing" i.e. crowd which is a part of any project is not a part of business – means crowd are not employees and it is unable to fully control the project as same with traditional jobs and projects. Other cons of crowd sourcing are the valuable trust and secrecy issues. These issues when works with a large team of people it might be turned as a big jeopardy and confront for some projects. When we hire numerous people to do a job, it could easily lead to lack of constancy.

Being having lots of positive side, crowd sourcing is an unreliable way to get a job done and last but not least what about confidentiality?–a major concern for IP giants. The moment if any IP facts posted on the internet for everybody to see is enough to blow any confidentiality.


Crowd sourcing -a term in its infant stage, which looks like a new approach, is undergoing a constant evolution. After considering every aspect, proximities and conditions of crowd sourcing, it is turned out to be best among all business tools and crowd souring sounds very simple gather a crowd and gather to do something and reap the financials rewards of the crowd work. While crowd sourcing has many advantages and disadvantages it can be very effective way of doing business.


1. , last visited 27/10/2014

2. Estellés Arolas, E.; González Ladrón-de-Guevara, F. (2012) Towards an integrated crowdsourcing definition. Journal of Information Science (in press). http://www.crowdsourcingblog. org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Towards-anintegrated- crowdsourcing-definition-Estell%C3%A9s-Gonz%C3%2. Estellés Arolas, E.; González Ladrón-de-Guevara, F. (2012) Towards an integrated crowdsourcing definition. Journal of Information Science (in press). crowdsourcing-definition-Estell%C3%A9s-Gonz%C3%A1lez.pdf. last visited 27/10/2014

3. Ibid

4. research--article-one-peer-to-patent-a230357


6. See MPEP 2132.01 Publications as 35 U.S.C. 102(a) Prior Art last visited 27/10/2014

7. / uploads/2012/02/Towards-an-integratedcrowdsourcingdefinition- Estell%C3%A9s-Gonz%C3%A1lez.pdf    last visited 30/10/2014

8. for-intellectual-property-research/ last visited 30/10/2014

9.   last visited 27/10/2014

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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