The Costliest Battle in the High-Tech World: On the Front Lines of the New Cold War
he morning that Michael Risch inserted himself into the battle between a Fortune 100 company and the man known as the “father of the iPod” began like any other, with a wake-up call from his six-year-old son. Risch, a professor of intellectual property law at Villanova University, padded to the kitchen of his suburban Philadelphia home and—in a move that his wife hated—joined his family at the table, his laptop in hand.
Of interest this morning was a new message from Article One Partners. For the past three years, Risch had moonlighted as a researcher for the company, which represents clients who are being sued, or are about to be sued, by someone who claims they’re infringing on a patent.
Article One posts the disputed patent online for Risch and the rest of its 20,000 researchers to see. What it’s hunting for is called “prior art”: magazine articles, brochures, or other published evidence that could show that the patent is invalid and therefore not worthy of a lawsuit.
What it offers in return are large cash rewards, sometimes as much as $50,000. Which explains why Risch’s wife tolerates the way he divides his mornings between his kids and his computer.