Intuit Pays $120 Million 'Don't Sue Us' Tax To Intellectual Ventures

from the money-wasted dept

It's no secret that I have tremendous problems with Nathan Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures, which many have described as the world's biggest patent "trolling" operation. The company has raised a ton of money and uses it to buy up thousands of patents. While it hasn't sued anyone, Myhrvold has made clear that's always an option. The company has remained incredibly secret, but it has somehow convinced some big companies to pay hundreds of millions to IV. Due to the secrecy, the details aren't clear -- and some of the deals apparently are a mix of "licensing" and an equity investment. But, still, the numbers are stunning. The latest, as pointed out by Stephen Kinsella is that Intuit has apparently paid $120 million to IV. For what? The right not to get sued. Think about that for a second. This is a pure dead weight net loss to society. It's $120 million that Intuit could have put towards further innovating, or to pay off investors via a dividend. Instead, it goes towards nothing productive, in terms of actually creating new products. It will now likely be used to buy up more patents so that IV can get similar black hole money grabs from other companies, as well. It's like a black hole where real innovation goes to die.

Filed Under: patents, software
Companies: intellectual ventures, intuit

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  1. icon
    Brooks (profile), 1 Jul 2009 @ 4:04pm

    Re: tripping up?

    I think you're operating from the way patents used to work, where it was OK to implement something functionally the same so long as the mechanism was clean-roomed.

    Today, software and business model patents effectively preclude a company from achieving the same result, even if the approach is different.

    For instance, a patent might be on a means of integrating the results from live news feeds into a store's pricing model. If IV is sitting on a patent relating to use of live feeds to adjust algorithms, you're going to trip over it even if you go about the code and differently.

    For that reason, many companies no longer do patent searches, because it's better to not know. If a legal department (or, god forbid, an engineer) finds a patent and an effort is made to work around it, there's the potential for treble damages from willful infringement if courts determine the workaround wasn't different enough.

    And, of course, the company will patent the workaround, making it more difficult for others to innovate in the same area (you can't do innovative and cool chimneys if the concept of having a roof is patented).

    So, yeah, you've got how it *should* work. But that's not how it works.

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