Nathan Myhrvold has received plenty of attention for his idea to create an "invention factory", but the company seems to be much more focused on buying up and hoarding a bunch of patents. In other words, they're acting like many of those little patent hoarding firms that go around demanding what amounts to legalized extortion from the companies doing the real innovating. In a new interview, Myhrvold answers questions about the issue of patent hoarding, but the answers are pretty weak. On the issue of why he's forming the company, he talks up the myth of the lone "crazy inventor" of the 19th century. The problem is, that's not really accurate. The names we all associate with inventing certain products were usually just those who innovated in an ongoing area to make a product that made sense in the marketplace. Myhrvold goes on to explain why inventors shouldn't be so focused on marketable products -- but it's the marketable products that are the real innovation. Real innovation occurs when someone sees a need and figures out how to fill it. That's not what his company is doing. It's trying to invent things out of thin air -- meaning that it's trying to invent needs out of thin air. Myhrvold also swats aside complaints about the patent system by saying that only a few people are really complaining about it, so it can't really be a problem. He also says: "The overall number of lawsuits for patents is growing, but so is the overall number of patents. So explain that to me." That's quite easy to explain, actually. Because of litigation and patent hoarding companies, everyone feels they must have their own patents, just to defend against such practices, or at least to settle with a little horse trading. It's just nuclear stockpiling basically. Build up as much as you can just to scare off the other guy. The only people who really benefit, though, are the lawyers. All that patent filing money doesn't get to go into actual innovation.
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