Operation Ninja S.T.A.R. – Help fight patent trolls

By Peter Vanderheyden from Article One Partners. 


Imagine you’re a startup that just created an exciting new online game. But then, just as it gains popularity (and a little revenue), you get a letter claiming your new game infringes a mysterious company’s patent.

The company demands that you pay a sizable settlement fee or they will sue you. Because you’re a startup, they know you don’t have the financial or legal resources to fight back.

A patent troll is trying to extort you.

This scenario actually happens.  And it’s happening right now to startups, small companies, and individual inventors. Some may settle, others may even be forced to shut down. Patent trolls are stifling innovation and hurting our economy.

And the most frustrating thing about patent trolls is that you can’t do anything about them…But what if, together, we could?

What We Want to Do

The goal of this campaign is to launch the Ninja “Startup Troll Attack Resource” (or Ninja S.T.A.R., for short).  This will be a free database that small companies can use to help defend against patent trolls.  We will launch with one patent, which will be the first in a series of Ninja S.T.A.R. patents.

With your help, we can show patent trolls that frivolous lawsuits won’t be tolerated.

We will start by examining a patent owned by Treehouse Avatar Technologies to see if there is any evidence that the invention existed prior to the patent application, rendering the patent invalid.  The patent U.S. 8,180,858 covers technology behind assigning characteristics to gaming avatars.  Yes, avatars.

They are asserting their patent against numerous startups who can’t afford to fight.  In fact, one of them, Turbine Inc, just settled for an undisclosed amount rather than face a lawsuit from Treehouse.  Turbine is one of the larger defendants (they created Dungeons and Dragons Online), so this doesn’t bode well for the little guys.

But we can help.

We have resources and experience that enable us to find this evidence.  We’d like to make this evidence available to startups or others threatened by the patent free of charge – but we need your support.

Our $17,500 goal will get this off the ground as a pilot project and lay the groundwork for a larger impact on the startup community through launching the online database.

If you’re interested in what Operation Ninja S.T.A.R. can become, check out our FAQ.

This approach has never been done before, and we believe it can work.  If it does, this will be just the beginning.

How We Plan to Help

Once we reach our goal:

  • We will use our resources to identify patent evidence. (We utilize a uniquely effective crowdsourcing method, which you can learn more about here)
  • A team of analysts will review the evidence we uncover
  • The most valuable evidence will be added to our S.T.A.R. database
  • The database will be made available at no charge to those threatened by Treehouse. To request access, click here
  • Article One founder and patent attorney Cheryl Milone will provide free consultations to startups on how to use the evidence

Why Are We the Right Group to Do This?

We are Article One Partners, a 35 person startup.  We’ve been using crowdsourcing to research patents for over five years.  We seek to improve the patent system by examining the quality of patents.  Surprisingly, many patents shouldn’t exist because their idea is not new.  Often, patent trolls take advantage of these weak patents.

We have a global, crowdsourced network of researchers. These researchers hunt for evidence, finding unique information that proves a patent is not the first to come up with an idea.  This evidence could invalidate the patent, and make any assertions a moot point.

In other words, if a troll approaches a startup with a low-quality patent and our researchers find the evidence to prove its invalidity, the troll could lose their power in the lawsuit!

Most of the time, we conduct this research for some of the world’s biggest brands, including SonyMicrosoft, and Philips. But as a startup ourselves, we really wanted to do something to help fellow startups, small companies, and individual inventors affected by these patent trolls.

Finally, we are relying on the input of a phenomenal Advisory Board  for this project, including members of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the App Developer Alliance, among others.

Why We Are Crowdfunding

Since Article One Partners was founded, we have helped research over 1,000 different patents and provided great value to our clients, who are mostly big companies – but startups don’t have the same resources.

Lacking these legal research resources, startups become easy targets for trolls (“pay my settlement fee or face an expensive lawsuit!”).  As the Turbine settlement proves, without your help, the probable outcome is more settlements and a continued drain on innovation.

The startups need your support to stand up to the trolls!

How You Can Help

Backing this project will provide a monumental benefit to small companies and startups. 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, join us in supporting Operation Ninja S.T.A.R!

If you have additional questions, please visit our FAQ.  

[This post originally appeared at indiegogo.com.]


  1. […]  Operation Ninja STAR: Help Fight Patent Trolls – IP Strategy […]

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