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"Oh, Yeah? Prove It!"

Bringing both sides of the patent issue together to find the truth about prior art

A major corporation claims to hold the rights to intellectual property you're using, and you're about to be sued. Call BountyQuest. For a minimum charge of $16,500, the company will investigate the patent's prior art, saving you the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to undertake a legal defense.

"For most entrepreneurs, patents are a double-edged sword," says Charles Cella, founder of the Boston, Massachusetts-based start-up. "We don't threaten entrepreneurs [who have] real innovations you can build a business around. But if you're threatened by someone else's claim to a patent, we can give you a silver bullet."

At the forefront of the debate are Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos and computer book publisher Tim O'Reilly. While Bezos defends patent holders' rights, O'Reilly favors making intellectual property public. Both men are BountyQuest investors.

"We all share the view that there is a need for reform," says Cella, 35. "Every Internet company uses prior art: one-click transactions, banner ads. We want to make patent information more readily available by tapping into the knowledge of scientists and engineers around the world."


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This article was originally published in the July 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: "Oh, Yeah? Prove It!".

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