Last fall, we noted that the world's largest patent troll, Intellectual Ventures, was running out of cash
, which is somewhat incredible, given that it had previously claimed to have raised $6 billion in investments (though many of its earliest deals with tech companies were categorized as "investments" when they were really promises not to sue, combined with access to the patent bank) and a further $3 billion in licenses. It should take a long time to spend $9 billion when your company produces nothing
that has ever been brought to market, but that's IV for you. As we noted in that story last fall, many of the tech companies that initially "invested" in Intellectual Ventures had no interest at all in re-upping, as they felt that the whole thing had been a bait-and-switch
. They were initially told it was a "patent defense fund," not a giant patent troll itself.
However, while many of the companies have indeed avoided giving IV any more money, it appears that Microsoft and Sony were quite happy to dump a lot more cash into IV
, which has now ramped up its patent buying efforts again (as well as its lobbying and political contributions
in an effort to kill off patent reform). Microsoft, of course, has always been close to IV, seeing as it was started by the company's former CTO, Nathan Myhrvold, who is also a close friend
of Bill Gates (who has directly helped IV get some patents). Similarly, Microsoft has become one of the most aggressive patent abusers
over the last decade, increasingly relying on its stock of patents to make money
from other people's innovations, rather than innovating on its own.
It is similarly no wonder that the company somewhat famous for having nearly all of its major success based on copying the work of others, is now trying to stop anyone else from doing the same without paying a massive tax. There was a time when Bill Gates said:
"If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today... A future start-up with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose."
And, now, via Intellectual Ventures and its own patent holdings, Microsoft seems to be trying to make sure Gates' prediction is a reality. It all fits in to the same paradigm we've observed for years
. When you're young, you innovate. When you're old, you litigate. Microsoft appears to have given up on innovation, but is ramping up on litigation, and re-investing in patent trolling via Intellectual Ventures is merely the latest step.