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Glyn Moody

Glyn Moody's look at all levels of the enterprise open source stack. The blog will look at the organisations that are embracing open source, old and new alike (start-ups welcome), and the communities of users and developers that have formed around them (or not, as the case may be).

Beware the King of the Trolls

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If you haven't heard of Intellectual Ventures, you will do. Set up by ex-Microsoftie Nathan Myhrvold, with investments from Microsoft among others, it is basically a patenting machine – filing and buying them in huge quantities. Note that it doesn't actually *use* these patents – except to threaten people with. In other words, Intellectual Ventures is a patent troll – or, rather the King of the Patent Trolls.

So I was interested to come across this extremely positive blog post on the company. That it is so positive is hardly surprising, since the blog is called “Tangible IP”, and subtitled “ipVA’s blog on adding value through intellectual property”. Nonetheless, it provides valuable insights into the mindset of fans of intellectual monopolies. Here's what it says about Intellectual Ventures:

They are an invention house, and have adopted and reinvented leading edge patent strategies to create a portfolio of their own IP which, in its own, would be of high high worth.

They don't *invent* anything in the proper, deep sense of the word: they merely file and buy patents – with no intent of ever making stuff or solving real-life problems. It's purely a cynical exploitation of the broken US patent system that grants very broad patents on often obvious ideas, which are then used to *impede* other companies' activities.

In combination they have acquired patents, hard to say how many as they are very private, but lots of patents on an unprecedented scale. Some say they have 30,000 patent families, but it is impossible to know exactly how many. What is believed though is that this number puts them in the Premier league (up there with IBM, Nokia, Qualcomm and others) in terms of IP influence.

Patents are supposed to stimulate innovation: they are not supposed to be stamps that are formed into vast collections so that people can boast “mine is bigger than yours”. Again, this is a total perversion of what the patent system was set up to do.

And along the way they’ve worked hard on their IP reputation. Ask people who know anything and they’d say that if IV breathes in your direction, take a license.

This is the killer: Intellectual Venture's business model is fear. “If IV breathes in your direction, take a license” - never mind whether their patent claims are valid, just roll over, because nobody messes with the King of the Patent Trolls.

Even Intellectual Ventures knows that what it is doing is underhand and contemptible:

But they don’t want to see seen to be litigators…that’s bad for reputation so they outsource that part to others who aren’t so bothered about what the outside world thinks of them.

That is, they don't even have the courage of their own convictions to admit what they are doing.

This is why we must fight software patents in Europe: because once they arrive, you can be sure that the King of the Patent Trolls will follow soon after to start “breathing” in your direction....

Update: things have just got more interesting.

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