Nathan Myhrvold: It's Ok To Kill Innovation If You're Also Killing Mosquitoes

from the that's-not-how-it-works dept

You may have seen the story last week about how Intellectual Ventures is trying to hire a "VP of Global Good" to take some of IV's ideas -- not a single one of which has ever been brought to market -- and see about bringing them to the developing world. Here's what this is about: every time people talk about Intellectual Ventures and the way it's put a massive, pointless and wasteful tax on innovation around the globe, IV and its founder Nathan Myhrvold point to their laser mosquito zapper. It's the go-to talking point. "We're zapping mosquitoes and stopping malaria." Except, of course, that the product is just a demo, not anything out in the market. So, the VP of "Global Good" is to try to actually get the product out there and used. Of course, some of us are skeptical as to how effective it really would be, but we'll reserve judgment there.

That said, Jeff Roberts, over at GigaOm, properly called out Intellectual Ventures for its hypocrisy in calling for "Global Good" when the company's entire business is focused on screwing over innovators by charging them an often substantial tax by bundling together tens of thousands of broad patents. Roberts notes that anyone taking the job is signing up for a "Faustian bargain."
The future “VP of Global Good” will be hard-pressed then to carry out enough good works to offset the colossal harm of his or her employer. Unless, of course, they choose to close the company and reform the patent system.
The ever-thin-skinned Myhrvold took exception to that and mocked GigaOm -- a company that actually produces something, unlike Myhrvold's company -- because Malaria!
I think we do a whole lot more good for the world than GigaOm does. How big is their malaria research project? How much effort do they put into polio? I’m quite curious! What on Earth have they done that is —

You know, I was at a conference recently where someone said, “Well, do you feel good about what you’re doing?” I turned to this person who is an entrepreneur at a prominent social networking website, and I said, “OK, fine. You’re about people sending little messages to each other and having fun on a social network. How big is your malaria project?”

It turns out it’s very easy if you have a technology-centric mindset to think, Ah yes, Zynga, they’re doing — I don’t mean to call Zynga out in a negative way, but is Zynga doing God’s work? Is Facebook doing God’s work? Even setting aside what God’s work means, I think it’s pretty easy to say, those companies are doing wonderful things, but they are for-profit ventures. It’s either tools or toys for the rich. There really is a role in taking great technological ideas and trying to harness them for the poorest people on Earth.
This is disingenuous to the point of being sickening. IV is very much a "for-profit venture" as well. In fact, if the leaks from the incredibly secretive company, concerning how much they charge companies are accurate, it's a massively profitable venture. And, if we're talking about "tools or toys for the rich," there's no better example of who Myhrvold is describing... than Myhrvold himself. Remember this is the guy who is selling a $600 cookbook about how to use modern technology to prepare your food.

But this claim -- that if you're not doing anything about malaria, you can't comment on how harmful Intellectual Ventures is for innovation, the economy and for society -- is ridiculous. Roberts, thankfully, hits back hard in a piece entitled, Malaria is no excuse for patent trolling, Mr. Myhrvold. Here's a snippet:

Well, the sentiment is certainly a noble one. The problem, though, is that Myhrvold is utterly unfit to espouse it. As we’ve stated before, no amount of philanthropy can undo the incredible ruin his company has unleashed on innovation through unfettered patent trolling. Lest you doubt, consider the following:

New research shows that Intellectual Ventures is tied to at least 1,300 shell companies whose sole purpose is to coerce real companies into buying patent license that they don’t want or need. Those who resist the “patent trolls” are dragged into nightmarish lawsuits.

Think what this means in practice. It means thousands of entrepreneurs must divert revenue from development and technology to pay Mr. Myhrvold’s licensing tax or else brace for millions in legal fees. Worse, Intellectual Ventures is targeting some of the most promising young start-ups in the country like hand-craft site Etsy. Now, instead of hiring workers and bolstering the economy, Etsy and others must put aside money to pay for Mr. Myhrvold instead.

And, of course, for all the talk of stopping malaria, the bug zapping demo is just that. It's a demo. He hasn't done anything to stop malaria either. He's produced a fancy demo that the slobbering press loves, so that he can pretend to be doing good for the world, while being the single largest force against innovation in our economy today. The companies Myhrvold is shaking down and suing are producing real products in the real world, not just demanding people pay them or get sued.

Myhrvold is proving himself not to just be a completely obnoxious patent troll with his efforts, but now one who hides behind ridiculous moral relativism to hit back at critics with very real gripes. It's sickening.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2012 @ 4:57am

    Sounds like someone didn't get invited to Myhrvold's birthday party.

     

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    Michael, Aug 13th, 2012 @ 5:02am

    Someone should petition every affected company to protest by refusing to pay IV's glorified extortion tax scheme and thus illustrate to the world what a bunch of parasitic, greedy leeches IV really are.

    This situation is very similar to how the music royalty collection societies, i.e. mafia, extort from small businesses and local artists.

    I am thoroguly disgusted by this.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2012 @ 5:26am

    Nirvana fallacy laced with ad hom.

    Stay classy Mr. Myhrvold.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2012 @ 5:36am

    Well I suppose this means we can expand the list of IV's activities to read:
    1. Sue practicing companies with its massive patent portfolio
    2. Pay a goon to pretend there are more activities

    Looks like innovation to me!

     

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    Ninja (profile), Aug 13th, 2012 @ 5:59am

    I think we found the troll deity. Or the Yoda of the trolls. You gotta admit he's doing it right on all ends..

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2012 @ 6:24am

    Why can I not leave a comment on the next article?

    The "Leave a Comment" command is missing.

     

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    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
       
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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2012 @ 7:46am

      Re:

      Why can I not leave a comment on the next article?

      The "Leave a Comment" command is missing.


      Masnick has disabled the "Leave a Comment" in order to drive people over to his floundering Step 2 page. Not exactly a winning CwF formula, and is as doomed as all of the other attempts to resuscitate Step 2.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2012 @ 7:49am

        Re: Re:

        You're just sad that you can go to that particular comment section and fuck it up like you usually do, while retaining your anonymity.

         

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        Ninja (profile), Aug 13th, 2012 @ 10:20am

        Re: Re:

        Except that it seems to be some server woe in spite of your conspiracy theory. Step 2 is alive and well next time I checked. And I even participated commenting a lot this time instead of voting only ;)

         

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          Ninja (profile), Aug 13th, 2012 @ 10:29am

          Re: Re: Re:

          er, last time I checked. It seems I've developed a time machine.

           

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            hmm (profile), Aug 13th, 2012 @ 3:17pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Can you go back in time and kill the grandparents of everyone who's ever worked for IV?

            Screw it...go back and stop lucifer from giving birth to perv-hold there.....improving the world one temporal assassination at a time.

             

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      Richard (profile), Aug 13th, 2012 @ 7:46am

      Re:

      It's not a regular article - you are supposed to comment over on Step 2.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2012 @ 11:25am

        Re: Re:

        Right. But I don't recall other articles referencing Step 2 having the comment section disabled. Clearly Masnick is trying to drive traffic to the moribund Step 2 site in the hopes it some day become relevant.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 12:48am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Then you are new, because they've done this before. Stop berating, and participate. Or don't, I really couldn't care.

           

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    Adam V, Aug 13th, 2012 @ 6:33am

    ďOK, fine. Youíre about people sending little messages to each other and having fun on a social network. How big is your malaria project?Ē

    "Your mosquito project is also *our* mosquito project - we funded your laser demo by paying you off after you threatened us."

     

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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Aug 13th, 2012 @ 6:33am

    Article title

    Have an issue with the article title. It should be more like:
    Nathan Myhrvold: It's Ok To Kill Innovation If You're Also (not) Killing Mosquitoes
    or
    Nathan Myhrvold: It's Ok To Kill Innovation If You're Also (lying about) Killing Mosquitoes

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2012 @ 6:42am

    is Zynga doing Godís work? Is Facebook doing Godís work?
    Some might say the mosquitoes are God's work.

     

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    Richard (profile), Aug 13th, 2012 @ 6:55am

    Malaria Research

    Google Malaria research and IV isn't on the front page,or the second page or... - you see the Wellcome Trust, Bill/Melinda Gates and a host of charities and governement sponsored organisations from around the world - but no Mr Myhrvold and no IV ...

    If they were serious they would have sponsored existing players in the field - as Bill Gates has.

    This is smoke and mirrors.

     

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      Ninja (profile), Aug 13th, 2012 @ 10:23am

      Re: Malaria Research

      Actually it's Patent Trolls. With lasers. Can we get an "with lasers" meme pic with mr Myhrvold and a malaria mosquito please? ;)

       

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    Brent Ashley (profile), Aug 13th, 2012 @ 7:13am

    cap and trade

    Why does he bother actually fighting malaria? Surely he can just buy up a bunch of douchebag credits from an NGO doing good works and continue to pollute the patent space with a clean conscience.

     

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    Harlan Quinn, Aug 13th, 2012 @ 7:18am

    He may have done some bad things, but Hitler did love his dogs.

     

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      hmm (profile), Aug 13th, 2012 @ 3:20pm

      Re:

      Apparently to the level that they needed to get a hotel room together.....

      I wonder how close myrvhold is to his pets? assuming he doesn't beat kittens to death for furball license violations...

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2012 @ 7:23am

    OMG the Onion news now are real.

    Kill mosquitoes to stop Malaria and let the rest of the medical development burn in ruins?

    Someone should calculate how much patents cost people.

     

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    Keii (profile), Aug 13th, 2012 @ 7:27am

    It's probably more cost effective to buy a bunch of bug zappers.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2012 @ 7:58am

    Mike, you're about criticising entities who innovate by making sure copycats can't bring products to market. How big is your malaria project?

    Wow, that's intoxicating. "How big is your malaria project?" will enter the annals of universal comebacks, resting with the hallowed "Nuh-uh!" "I know you are but what am I?" and "I'm rubber and you're glue."

     

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    Pixelation, Aug 13th, 2012 @ 8:32am

    He won't becuase of the money

    Hey Nathan, if you are truly a philanthropist release any patents and research you hold on the Photonic Fence to the public with the caveat that any profit from building them be used to fund units to be donated to areas with high rates of Malaria.

    Oh, and "God's Work"?... Got Ego?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2012 @ 8:38am

    GGs

    There are lots of ways to kill mosquitoes

    My latest invention involves a design that is economical,fun and can be cheaply manufactured at the local level.

    It involves two blocks of wood with flat and smooth surfaces of a size to comfortably fit in a child's hand. When a mosquito is spotted by the child, he or she would bring the two blocks of wood together rapidly thus trapping the mosquito between them and turning them into little globs of goo (GGs) and making a loud noise at the same time.
    The loud noise would delight the child and cause them to laugh and be happy.The GGs could be counted by a laser system and points could be acquired and used (via my website,GGs.Gooey)to earn other credits that can be redeemed for local vouchers that can be redeemed for local credits to pay for malaria shots.
    I'm still working out all the fine details, such as proper licensing, but I think this is going to be really big.

    Makes much more sense than Myhrvold's Laser and GGs.

     

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      hmm (profile), Aug 13th, 2012 @ 3:24pm

      Re: GGs

      Can I take the two blocks of wood together rapidly after first ensuring myrvhold's testicles are between them?

      If so, count me in I'll buy 3 dozen.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2012 @ 3:45pm

        Re: Re: GGs

        They're not going to be sold,but "licensed".
        To have that functionality enabled would require an extra license "per Testicle Smashed or squashed"

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2012 @ 9:03am

    IV is the schoolyard bully's big brother.

    "I can steal your pocket money, and my big brother will make sure you can't fight back."

     

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    Ian (profile), Aug 13th, 2012 @ 9:28am

    All fits

    Of course they have some project that they can point to as doing "good work". They pretty much have to. They have their anti-mosquito lasers, just like the Hells Angels have toy drives for children. Organized shakedown rackets have always needed to have some cover activities to avoid a full public backlash.

     

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    Josef Anvil (profile), Aug 13th, 2012 @ 10:43am

    The reason IV doesn't bring any product to market

    IV won't bring any product to market because they will immediately be pounced upon by ALL the companies they extort money from as well as other NPEs.

    Because IV is a trolling NPE, there is no fear of mutual destruction when deciding to troll them.

     

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      rubberpants, Aug 13th, 2012 @ 1:56pm

      Re: The reason IV doesn't bring any product to market

      They are the equivalent of a country with nuclear weapons and no other assets. They're only form of diplomacy is "Sure is a nice country you have there. It would be a shame if something were to happen to it."

       

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    Andrew F (profile), Aug 13th, 2012 @ 11:46am

    What about the children?

    So if IV ever goes a small impoverished nation that is distributing IV's patented bug zapper, can we throw this in his face? Better yet, can someone ask him what he thinks about patenting life-saving drugs and charging a 1st world mark-up in the 3rd world?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2012 @ 12:11pm

    Did I read that wrong or did he just claim that Facebook and Zynga are "for the rich"?

     

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    Jim B., Aug 13th, 2012 @ 1:53pm

    Microsoft Shill

    It's been posited that IV is a Microsoft spin-off. These examples that he gave give merit to that position.

     

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    Paul Renault, Aug 13th, 2012 @ 2:32pm

    If you kill all the mosquitoes...

    ...what are the birds going to eat?

    Pollinators?

     

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    hmm (profile), Aug 13th, 2012 @ 3:22pm

    Size

    at this point is saying "my malaria project is huge" just sounds like he's overcompensating for a tiny penis.

    IV - Intellectual Ventures or Injecting Viagra???

    Anyways althought I can't help with malaria I think one of the biggest and most disgusting bugs on the planet is IV..and they need to be squashed post-haste.

     

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    staff, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 7:37am

    more dissembling by Masnick

    It is not innovation that patents hinder, but the theft of.

    Not all competition is fair. When the courts permit a larger competitor to use an invention without the inventor's permission, it's like having a duel where your challenger has your gun and all the bullets. Think again...or just think!

    Itís about property rights. They should not only be for the rich and powerful. Show me a country with weak or ineffective property rights and Iíll show you a weak economy and high unemployment.

    Masnick and his monkeys have an unreported conflict of interest-
    https://www.insightcommunity.com/cases.php?n=10&pg=1

    They sell blog filler and "insights" to major corporations including MS, HP, IBM etc. who just happen to be some of the worldís most frequent patent suit defendants. Obviously, he has failed to report his conflicts as any reputable reporter would. But then Masnick and his monkeys are not reporters. They are patent system saboteurs receiving funding from huge corporate infringers. They cannot be trusted and have no credibility. All they know about patents is they donít have any.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2012 @ 11:07am

    Fallacy in doing God's work

    I'm confused here... if God created everything that we see including Man & mosquito then how is killing mosquito's doing God's work? Has he ever thought that maybe the mosquito is doing God's work by spreading malaria? In that case wouldn't their efforts be working against God's will or is this simply justify one's own ego? That sounds like the work of someone else no God to me.

     

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    Nathan Myrhvold, Jun 7th, 2013 @ 9:38pm

    Malaria and Zapping

    Most of the lower life forms commenting here have never built a business and certainly don't know how to charge money for ideas. That's my business - I make money on ideas. They make the world go around...

     

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