With every new milestone reached by Article One Partners (AOP) it becomes more and more evident that I am no soothsayer, or if I am my prophecies are more akin to those of Carnac the Magnificent than those of the Amazing Kreskin. Sometimes I think I should just delete, or at least forget, that article I wrote nearly 4 years ago expressing skepticism about the AOP business model.
In any event, and for all to see my diminished powers of prediction, AOP, the world’s largest patent research community, has passed another significant milestone. This time the company has passed the $3 million threshold in financial rewards paid to its global research community. Actually, the milestone was reached at the end of August 2012, but AOP only officially made the announcement last week. In fact, as of the writing of this article the reward calculator found prominently on the AOP homepage shows that some $3,371,500 in reward money has been paid to its community of crowdsourcing researchers.
The announcement that Article One has reached the $3 million milestone comes only six months after reaching the $2 million milestone, which took place at the beginning of February 2012. It took AOP 11 months to the day to reach the $2 million milestone, and since they opened for business in November 2008 it took approximately 27 months to pay out its first million in reward money. What this shows is that AOP is gaining steam, constantly shaving months off the time it takes to reach the next milestone award figure.
Today, AOP is the world’s largest patent research community. The company distributes requests for prior art research globally to countless scientists and technologists. AOP is active in 161 countries, presents search requests in 10 languages and identifies key foreign language evidence, textual, graphical and non-patent literature. The company is a partner to 16 Fortune 100 companies, 52 Global Fortune 2000 and 7 of the top 10 US patent filers. AOP’s client satisfaction rate exceeds 90%.
The fact that AOP has so many high profile clients, and so many repeat clients, coupled with the continual acceleration to the next financial milestone, is indicative of the fact that their model is growing and becoming the industry standard for those seeking prior art research. It also means several other things. First, there is a continuing need for high-quality patent researchers to fulfill the demand. Second, it means that researchers are capable of earning a real and substantial income working for themselves by and through the various patent studies AOP is constantly conducting.
Each research study varies, but the typical award per study is in the range of $3,500 to $10,000. To date, Article One Partners has issued more than 600 research studies, utilizing its worldwide community that is represented across 161 countries. AOP researchers come from all different backgrounds to form a strong patent research community. Researchers range from scientists, technologists and academic personnel to stay-at-home moms, students and athletes.
In 2011, 8% of winning researchers earned more than the average annual income in the U.S, meaning they earned financial rewards upwards of $60,000 annually. This trend holds true in Japan and Canada at 6% each more than the average annual income in those respective countries. While this is impressive, the rewards also are highly compelling in emerging markets, such as India and the Philippines where 24% and 44% of winners earned more through AOP than the average annual income in those countries. While the job market and economy may still be struggling, these earnings figures continued to rise through the first half of 2012.
“I particularly find it rewarding to identify ways that we can facilitate the work of the community and to provide additional compensation opportunities for the community,” says Cheryl Milone, who is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Article One Partners.
I have known Milone for nearly 4 years and count her among my many friends in the industry. I know when she speaks of it being rewarding to provide compensation for the members of the community it is not just lip-service. AOP is very much founded on a community model, both in practice and culture. Cheryl took a leap of faith 4 years ago when not many, including myself, thought her pursuit would pay-off. She was right, the detractors were wrong. She is extremely grateful that so many wonderful researchers — community members — took a leap of faith.
Milone recently explained it this way:
I get email from community members all the time. And the emails are not necessarily about compensation or specific work. They say things like, “You changed my life.” “This is the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me.” You know, a relative is now able to get medical care… To have these sort of interactions with people that I’ve never met and that have taken a leap of faith to work on this platform, and we’ve been able to keep our commitments. It’s just an incredible thing. I’m just very, very appreciative.
There are a few secrets to the success of Article One, at least from my perspective. One, Cheryl is dynamic, committed and captivating. She is the perfect CEO for this type of endeavor. Two, the technology that connects the community together and the human infrastructure that goes through the submissions to find the best prior art offer a dynamic combination between crowdsourcing and quality review so that clients don’t just get a disk dump of references of questionable value. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the community of researchers is vast and the qualifications they possess make them an extraordinarily qualified team.
Case in point, the recipient of the reward that pushed AOP over $3 million paid. The winning community member, Jesse Frumkin, is a Ph.D candidate in Computational and Systems Biology, who is a graduate of MIT. Frumkin is not unique either. Many of the AOP research community have one or more advanced degrees, which no doubt contributes to the high quality that they deliver, which seems to be well recognized by the industry based on their growth.
“AOP provides me with flexibility, room for creativity and strong financial rewards,” stated Frumkin. “I am able to research on my own terms and learn about new industries. While there are other crowdsourcing opportunities out there, AOP is different because it challenges me and financially rewards me more than other crowdsourcing platforms.”
To date Frumkin has been awarded more than $15,000 in financial incentives by participating in 21 research competitions.
“It is important for us to provide the best possible prior art we can find for our clients,” said Milone. “Since the AOP research community is educated, international and multilingual, we are in a unique position to find prior art in non-traditional literature that exists all over the world. We are proud that global brands and even cutting-edge startups turn to AOP for their patent research needs.”