Great Article on Intellectual Ventures (sucking)

For those of you who share my disgust with the current patent ecosystem, here is a great piece from Timothy B. Lee on “Intellectual Ventures.”

I use quotations, because it’s nearly impossible for me to call them “Intellectual Ventures” as I see nothing intellectual about the firm but for their desire to further deteriorate innovation in this country while trying to bilk a buck or two (or millions) from hard working entrepreneurs.

Timothy summarizes Malcolm Gladwell’s expose of IV where he stated that IV

“hires smart people to participate in brainstorming sessions and then has patent lawyers immediately file patent applications for every idea that comes up during the discussion, without bothering to actually implement any of them, or even devoting much effort to verifying that they actually work. IV then approaches firms that are doing the hard work of implementing “their” ideas and demands a cut of their profits.”

If you aren’t disgusted, you should be.  Timothy asks how any of this benefits anyone other than IV and the patent bar.  His take on patent reform?

“a good yardstick would be to look for policy changes that would tend to put Myhrvold and his firm out of business.”


  • SM2

    This does not make the fight seem promising:
    "The widely used insult "patent troll" was coined to describe Niro and his clients by Peter Detkin, then an Intel Corp. lawyer. Detkin is now co-founder and vice chairman of Intellectual Ventures."

    I guess if you can't beat them join em?

  • Sigh.  Yes.

  • Bruno

    Very interesting debate! thanks for that.
    In Europe, it woudn't happen since patents on ideas, software or business methods are (nearly) impossible.
    Maybe in reviewing the US system, authorities might investigate how it works in Europe?
    What do you think?

    • I think it’s a good idea, although I like the US first to invest, versus European first to file standards.

      • Bruno

        What do you mean exactly? Invest in what?

  • greg fettig

    Forgive me, a friend of mine sent me a link to your site. I guess I don't quite follow your musings. How do you propose fixing the system? By making every inventor make what they seek to patent. NTP was made out to be one of the so called patent trolls when they sued RIM. NTP was a company who tried to make their system work – they were just bad businessmen and went broke. Does that mean they should not be allowed to retain their intellectual property. Less than 1% of patents are ever litigated. Probably less than 1% of those are by the so-called patent trolls. Doesn't that just amount to a cost of doing business when those cases are settled. Last time I checked, IV has a lot of really smart people. Who's to say that they are not inventing? For the record, I am not a huge fan of these patent holding companies but I don't necessarily think they are as evil as, for example, some of the companies screaming they are patent trolls. Those who believe Google is here to save the world are fooling themselves. Google has a huge war chest of patents and cash. They have over 1000 patent applications and patents assigned to them. They play the game just like everyone else but claim they "do no evil". I believe they are evil incarnate trying to destroy the very foundation of our society by eliminating an economy through the removal of IP laws. If an artist cannot be compensated for his work (because Google wants everything dedicated to the public), then what is the incentive to create the work. Same goes for patents. Great quotes from the movie Wall Street are true. Money makes a man do things he would ordinarily do. How do think our economy would look if we went the Google way? Heck, they even talk of building an island in international waters to start a new country so they can "experiment with new forms of government". If Microsoft is deemed the evil empire (because they like to make money from their efforts), then what does that make Google…a shining knight? Rather, they seek to destroy that on which this country was founded (e.g., Art. 1 Section 8.8 of the constitution). Reformation of patent laws may be fine, but that usually just serves the lawyers (e.g., radical changes in law create more work for lawyers). So, should we ban software patents? What is a software patent? Everything in this world that has electronics has software. When I was an engineer, our saying was "Anything you can do in software, you can do in hardware". That's why everything is done in software. Bilski is an example of a lame patent, I agree. But, it is not a software patent. Rather, it is a business method with absolutely no ties to technology – an algorithm if you will (read the application submitted as evidence to the courts as the app is not published). Those are pathetic and I have no problem eliminating such from the patent system – just don't lump them in as "software patents" and throw the baby out with the bath water. That's why I have no problem with the present state of Bilski – i.e., 1. tied to some machine or apparatus and/or 2. transform something tangible (albeit weaker). Also, those who decry patents are often misinformed. Owning a patent does not require you to assert it. You can dedicate it to the public if you feel so inclined. It happens with universities all the time – except for those evil greedy ones who extract money from their efforts (oops, I digress). Are venture capitalists firms like yours simply altruistic entities merely wanting to help entrepreneurs. I think not as they are often dubbed "vulture capitalists". But please continue championing your efforts Mr. Quixote. They are at least entertaining. By the way, I saw you speak at a Silicon Flatirons conference. Personally, I thought you and your partner Mr. Feld were simply rude to the highly qualified intellectual property experts of the panel. Just because you yell louder than anyone else that doesn't make you right.

    • Sorry that you feel this way, but I don’t count on Google to save the world.  In fact, they, along with MSFT want to change to a ‘first to file’ system that I am very afraid of.

      You seem to think that my profession disqualifies me from my opinion being a “vulture capitalist” but I’ll tell you that I’m proud that my profession allows me to make a good living, while doing good for the innovative economy of the U.S.   You can do good for yourself and others at the same time.

      Also, I think that Mr. Feld and I are every bit as qualified as any of the other experts on the panel, as we are on the front lines seeing these issues.  While they have a different experience set being academics, I don’t think it makes one or the other “better.”  I don’t believe that we were rude or trying to yell louder, rather we are very passionate about the issues and really feel strongly in our convictions.

      No one really know the “real numbers” of patent troll activity, b/c much of it never hits the court system.  What I do know, from personal experience, is that there are many situations out there where these trolls are destroying our entrepreneurial ecosystem and it must change or we will continue to lose our competitiveness.

    • I also think that if you are going to say that I’m biased b/c I’m a venture capitalist, that you should also point out that you are a patent attorney and have biases too.  It’s all part of the discussion and does not discredit your position, but it should be noted. 

  • Brandtroo

    Can't login w/OpenID, shame shame.

    -= snip =-

    Sorry! You will not be able to login to this website as it is using an older version of the the OpenID technology. Yahoo! only supports OpenID 2.0 because it is more secure. For more information, check out the OpenID documentation at Yahoo! Developer Network.

  • greg fettig

    I have nothing against VC's. In fact, I believe they do a lot of good for entrepreneurs getting off the ground. I have a client that is having his business completely transformed by a VC – in a good way (e.g., exponential growth). But, there are many VC's that could care less – and the term has been coined. I never said you were unqualified. I just said that THEY were highly qualified – and my observation was that you and Mr. Feld were rude. If I misconstrued that for being passionate, mea culpa and no offense.

  • Sorry, I meant “invent” not “invest”

  • I just said that THEY were highly qualified – and my observation was that you and Mr. Feld were rude. If I misconstrued that for being passionate, mea culpa and no offense.

  • Now-a-days it's hard to find some good and well researched article on Intellectual Ventures. I am studying Business management and I am in real need of some good articles. Anyways, thanks.

  • Jason I'm with you, there will always be those people willing to go after a quick buck.

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