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One of the latest natural progressions in both mobile devices and particuarly in iPhones recently are the increase in Crowdsourcing.  Jeff Howe, who wrote the book on the subject, defines it as:

“the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.”

More simply put, it means that people either actively or passively make contributions to the product they are participating in, thereby making it more real-time, customized, and personalized to fit your needs and goals.  Crowdsourcing is a virtual community of sorts.  Traffic applications are a good example of a passive crowdsourcing: it can give the application owner an idea of how much traffic there is, based on the collective speed that other application owners are traveling.  Another example of crowdsourcing, which happens to require a more active role from its users, is the site Yelp.com.  On Yelp, users write reviews and rate things themselves for restaurants, bars, etc.

The iPhone is currently not the most popular mobile device.  But as more and more useful and practical applications are developed for it (like real-time traffic), the more headway the iPhone will make.

The future for both crowdsourcing and the iPhone seems quite promising.

“Games will be built that rely on users to locate items in a virtual world; Poetry apps will rely on users submitting their own stanzas; Lolcat sites will depend on iPhone users snapping pictures of cats, slapping funny captions on them, and sending them in; and much more.”

As crowdsourcing gains popularity and iPhone sales grow, so too will the technology itself.

“In essence, as with the larger app ecosystem, the sky’s the limit for crowdsourced apps. And while other smart phones will also have an increasing number of applications that rely on user submissions, the iPhone is likely to stay at the head of the field.”

Crowdsourcing is a virtual community of sorts.  As such, its growth will illuminate legal issues that may not have originally been conceived of or prepared for.  As the concept of crowdsourcing evolves, it will be interesting to see what different types of legal implications will arise from it.


Joel B. Rothman represents clients in intellectual property infringement litigation involving patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, defamation, trade libel, unfair competition, unfair and deceptive trade practices, and commercial matters. Joel’s litigation practice also includes significant focus on electronic discovery issues such as e-discovery management and motion practice relating to e-discovery.