Intellectual Ventures' Patents Starting To Show Up In Lawsuits
from the the-beast-awakens? dept
Intellectual Ventures, of course, is the Nathan Myhrvold company that has been building up a huge portfolio of patents with which to get big tech companies to pay many millions of dollars to not get sued — and, according to many, to get a cut of future deals as well, making the whole thing sound suspiciously like a pyramid scheme. However, the company has been quite careful to avoid actually suing anyone (despite setting up all sorts of shell companies commonly used in such lawsuits). From what we’ve heard from people who have been in or around IV, this has been a conscious decision to avoid attracting too much ill will and scorn. It lets the company pretend to take the high road, when people point out that its actions seem like the commonly defined “patent troll” on steroids. “But we haven’t sued anyone” it can claim. As if the threat of being sued isn’t a big enough weapon.
But, a year ago, we noted that the company appeared to be getting antsy. While it was bringing in some hefty fees from a small group of companies who bought into the equity pyramid (which neatly lets the world outside be confused over what’s “investment” and what’s “revenue”), there was concern that investors were getting impatient. Pouring billions of dollars into a company that isn’t doing much can make some investors a little anxious. And while we still don’t know of any direct lawsuits, Zusha Elinson has noticed that Intellectual Ventures’ former patents are starting to show up in court, often involving some of the most well known names normally associated with “patent trolling.” Now, it’s clear that IV sold the patent, but what’s not clear is if it still has a financial interest in it. The thinking is that IV may have “sold” the patent, with part of the terms being that it gets a cut of any money obtained via that patent. This way, IV gets to have its cake and eat it too. It still can claim it doesn’t sue anyone, but it brings in revenues from exactly those types of lawsuits.
As Joe Mullin notes in the last link above, this is one of the massive problems with the way patent infringement lawsuits work today. Via different shell companies, those who have an interest in a patent can be hidden to protect their “good name” while still allowing them to actively have companies sued via that patent.