Tech firmsBig high-tech companies have turned to crowd-sourcing to fight patent infringement lawsuits.

Apple, Microsoft and others have hired Article One Partners LLC to seek out evidence that a patent they are being sued for isn’t unique. By uncovering such evidence, the court will likely throw out the patent infringement lawsuit.

The key to fighting these types of lawsuits has been discovering prior art. To find this evidence, companies might offer a payment of $5,000 to a person who finds the proof that will nullify a patent. The company will describe the disputed technology on the Internet and reward the person who finds the article reference, drawings or foreign documents that will win the case for the company.

This part-time work can pay a researcher a handsome sum for finding that gold nugget information that a company needs.

For example, Pamela Jackson, a bioengineering student, is an Article One researcher who checks through the Article One’s client list.

Clients might be seeking information about automotive engines or a chemical process. Companies have chosen her research as the most helpful six different times, paying her five-figure rewards.

Her patent search might start with a simple Google query and continue on to chasing obscure foreign language documents and databases.

Article One is based in New York, and the company recently opened a branch in Silicon Valley. Patent suits have exploded in the high-tech industry as companies go after that next hot gadget that can translate into millions in profit. Some companies are trying to win by going through the legal system.

This is where Article One steps in. A company may pay Article One $25,000 to find that crucial information. About 75 percent of Article’s work revolves around high-tech.

The sharp freelance researcher can earn a nice piece of change by helping a company win a court case through Article One.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal.