Every once in awhile, you stumble across something that makes you say, “how did I not realize this existed?” or “I wish I would’ve found this years ago!”
Field Agent made me say both of those things. This service has existed for four years, but I somehow just learned of it. This service is designed to crowdsource market research. Retail brands can create an account on the site and post “job” listings.
Individual users–who can be anyone–download the mobile app and sign up to be “Agents” who can take on assigned investigative jobs, which are offered to them based on their shopping habits and geographic location. For example, a retail brand might ask an Agent has to check out the price of a particular item on a particular shelf of a grocery store or to see whether a product is sold at a certain store and send in a photo. According to Field Agent’s site, projects that require travel, like instructing Agents to “go to 445 N. Poplar Dr.”, start with a base price of $5 which includes one question. Additional photos cost $3 each and additional questions are $1 each. Video clips start at $10 and Audio at $5.
Field Agent markets itself to brands, and boasts a client list that includes Coca-Cola, P&G, J&J, Walgreen’s, and more. Reading between the lines, though, reveals that this app can be a great tool for the IP litigation attorneys working for companies like these, and many more besides. Lawyers who (like me) handle trademark, copyright and patent disputes find themselves in need of research like this all the time. We need to know if, and how, infringing goods are being sold in the marketplace.
The typical way for lawyers to get this information is through a private investigator. But the cost of a Field Agent “job” is far less than having a private investigator do the run. That said, I don’t see crowdsourcing replacing professional investigators anytime soon. But as a supplemental tool for gaining quick, affordable information about what’s happening in the marketplace, Field Agent holds a lot of promise for the legal profession. I’ve already been told one story of the service being used to spot infringement, and I’m sure there will be many more similar tales to come.