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Intellectual Ventures Sheds At Least Part of Its "Patent Troll" Reputation 75

pacopico writes Intellectual Ventures, the world's most infamous patent troll, has changed its tune — maybe. According to a story in Businessweek, the company has started turning a number of its ideas into products, ranging from hydration sensors to waterless washing machines and self-healing concrete. The story reveals some new tidbits about IV, including that it pays inventors $17,000 per idea, has a new start-up fund and that one of its cofounders got tossed out of school for hacking. IV is obvisouly trying to improve its reputation, but plenty of skeptics remain who think this is just a ruse meant to draw attention away from its patent lawsuits.
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Intellectual Ventures Sheds At Least Part of Its "Patent Troll" Reputation

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  • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @02:56PM (#47828919) Homepage Journal

    Is that punishing patent trolls causes innovation.

    • $700 million in licensing revenue in 2010 alone.

      Sounds like a tiny bit of advertising budget is being deployed here.

    • another lesson is that one who starts suing for patent infringement and than builds stuff with that money is apparently equivalent to somebody that build things and sues when somebody infringes on the relevant patents.

      This is PATENTS!!!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    With the recent Supreme Court rulings, IV's gameplay of suing software companies got a whole lot less profitable. If they want to stay in business they actually need to make things.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @03:07PM (#47829011)

    When This American Life did its expose on Intellectual Ventures' activities a few years ago, IV talked about their labs and made many claims that the money was being used to fund innovation and create new products - a claim that did not stand up to even a modicum of scrutiny.

    Basically IV is just trying to find a new patsy to listen to its same old song. Welcome to the show, Business Week!

  • Are they using unwet water?

  • Mosquito laser (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dfsmith ( 960400 ) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @03:26PM (#47829171) Homepage Journal

    So can I get a laser mosquito blaster [intellectualventures.com] in time for my next party?

  • by The Grim Reefer ( 1162755 ) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @03:34PM (#47829235)
    Seriously, why don't they just change their name to Intellectual Vultures? I'd at least respect them for their honesty.
    • by erice ( 13380 )

      Seriously, why don't they just change their name to Intellectual Vultures? I'd at least respect them for their honesty.

      If they were honest, would they operate this kind of business?

      • If they were honest, would they operate this kind of business?

        Honesty has nothing to do with it. That's the way the patent system/IP laws are structured.

  • Go ahead sell them your idea's this isn't a publicity stunt to try and mend their reputation so they can aquire more arms in the IP cold war

    • If I had an idea for something that was okay, not earth changing, but it was in a field I wasn't an expert in (or was just too boring to bother), I'd happily take $17k from anyone who would hand it to me. I got I think $800 from my employer for my patent, which was obviously what I agreed to when I was hired but puts $17k in perspective.

      Something I think conservatives know well, but other leanings don't always grasp, is that it's a good thing to take money from your opponents. That's why I don't buy from

    • They see the writing on the wall and want to avoid classification as trolls in case anti-troll legislation gets passed in the future. Doing the bare minimum to utilize a small part of their portfolio is just a minor cost to keep their racket running.

  • by erice ( 13380 ) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @03:49PM (#47829361) Homepage

    The article mentioned a handful of startups but there is no mention of any of these startups actually producing a product that people can buy. If you actually could buy a product or service from an Intellectual Ventures backed company this would be a powerful affirmation that IV is a real contributor and not just a troll.

    That this PR piece makes no mention of such a product, making it very clear this has not happened. I expect this will never happened. IV startups are not meant to produce and sell product. They are meant to be bought out and bought out for a much larger sum than IV could get from just licensing the IP.

    Now, there is nothing wrong with a startup selling out before it can bring it's product to market but it is a little bit dishonest to plan it that way.

    Which, I suppose is an improvement over IV's normal policy of simply sitting on technology until a practicing entity re-invents it and then suing them. Still, it is a long way from showing that the world is better with Intellectual Ventures than without them.

  • IV is obvisouly trying to improve its reputation

    Well, yeah... it's really obvisou they're trying to get people to stop dwelling on their patnte lawstuis.


  • I ahve heard that having an idea, patenting, and then wanting people to pay you for your idea is wrong, and no data sows it actually hurts innovation.

    Patent troll used to be someone who patented something already in use, but not patented and then demanding payment.

    Now if I invent something, but can't afford to get a working copy going within some vague period of time, suddenly I'm a patent troll, and that is bullshit.
    The industry has taken patent troll, and twisted it in order to make things harder for smal

    • Patent trolls aren't small inventors. They are groups of rich people hiding behind paper corporations. They buy their patents from others. Then they do nothing with them. They only sue those who later come up with the same idea. The whole point of the patent system was to act as an incentive for people to come up with, make use of and ultimately publicize their ideas. This was to keep technology progressing to benefit us all. The whole point of a patent troll is to extract money from people who actually t

    • by Copid ( 137416 )
      I'd rather see the expiration for patents depend on whether they're actually being implemented or not. Coming up with a new idea is great, but only if something actually comes out of it. If you can't get somebody to license and build it in a reasonable number of years, all the patent is really doing is cluttering up the idea space for companies that are inventing things in-house with the actual intent of building them.

      Right now, every time a company comes up with a cool new invention, they have to sear
      • by TheCarp ( 96830 )

        Interesting idea though could create situations where a potential licensee may come along and be faced with potentially bolstering a patent that could be free for them to use in a few months if they don't. Not sure how big an issue that really is, nor is it clear that it couldn't be trivially bypassed.

        Several related companies could easily license each other's patents in exchange for licensing eachother's patents just to keep them current. Even if you tried to proect against that, it would always be a situa

        • by Copid ( 137416 )

          Interesting idea though could create situations where a potential licensee may come along and be faced with potentially bolstering a patent that could be free for them to use in a few months if they don't.

          That's an issue that exists in all time-limited systems, though. It's currently hard to license a patent that will expire in a few months. The trick is setting the expiration time long enough that there's an incentive for the licensee to license rather than running down the clock but short enough that

          • by TheCarp ( 96830 )

            Admittedly I am still skeptical it wouldn't be gamed cheaper than actually prioducing the result intended, but I like where you are going with that idea, it reminds me alot of the xkcd commentary on automated spam: http://xkcd.com/810/ [xkcd.com]

            That said, I think I have more faith in people's ability to reverse engineer, and lose control of secrets than I do in the ability of a system to regulate. At the current technology level, I really do suspect that any patent system will be more hamper than helper, and giving p

  • by IcyHando'Death ( 239387 ) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @04:29PM (#47829677)

    I know patent trolls are about as popular here as child molesters, but here I am, coming to their defense..,

    Suppose you are the inventor of something marvelous, like say, intermittent windshield wipers. You are not likely to have the capital to start your own car company, so how do you monetize your invention? You do the obvious: approach the existing car companies about licensing. Now, if you don't happen to know the story of Rober Kearns, you may want to look him up, but the TL;DR version is that if you are not ready to spend years and $MILLIONS in court, the giants will just steam roll right over you, taking your invention with them.

    Enter the "patent troll".

    Patent trolls are your key to monetizing your invention. They have the expertise and the money to see a court case through. They are not producers themselves so the multi-nationals can't shut them down using their own patent portfolios. If the patent is a good one, they stand a real chance of winning in court and they compete against each other for such opportunities, so they form an alternative market where your invention can fetch you a tidy sum. They will expect a discount obviously; they assume a substantial risk, after all, due to the uncertain nature of litigation.

    The facts that patent trolls don't invent anything and don't make anything are often held up here on Slashdot as reasons to deride these companies. These are red herrings. Many companies exist which perform valuable functions in society without doing either of these things. Patent trolls are among them.

    I will grant that there have been some absurd patent cases ltigated by patent trolls, but that's a separate issue. If anybody's reputation should suffer for these absurdities, it should be the patent office's. The troll is just doing its duty by its investors to run a profitable company by obtaining maximum value for its patent assests.

    • I should note that the above argument is about "patent trolls" in general. I don't know the particulars about Intellectual Ventures.

    • That's a nice theory, but what really happens is that the patent troll just steam rolls the little guy instead of the manufacturer. At least the manufacturer produces some goods that have a benefit to society has a whole.
    • by Skarjak ( 3492305 ) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @05:02PM (#47829879)
      I don't see how that changes anything. As far as i'm concerned, if you go to one of these patent trolls instead of trying to develop a product, you are indeed slowing down innovation. If a company independently has the same idea and actually tries to do something with it, I don't think they should owe you anything. How exactly did the original "inventor" contribute to society and technology? There is no valuable function being served here. Just someone who came up with an idea, and rather than doing something with it, figures he's just gonna leech money from people who have the same idea later on.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MattGWU ( 86623 )

      Their patents aren't 'patent for intermittent windshield wipers' complete with schematics. Their patents are for 'device, method, or process to remove liquids from a surface which may or may not need to be glass in a manner TBD'.

    • I have a problem with Software Patent Trolls and those that patent stuff that clearly isn't innovative but no one patented it before. Patents were designed to protect true innovations, not for dubiously legal monetary extortion.
    • At the same time as you're selling your patent to a patent troll, I'm in the process of starting up a company based on my own invention, "continuous transparent wipers". Soon the wipers are selling like hot butter, and we think we might just pull this off. But then, out of the blue, my small company is hit by a lawsuit from the same patent extortionist you dealt with. In fact, they are using the very patent you sold them to sue us. They threaten to take us to court, and though we never even heard of your in

  • This is less of an attempt by Intellectual Ventures to shed the "patent troll" label and more of an attempt to get some money after the big boys refuse to pay them for their shenanigans. As noted by BusinessWeek and others, they had their second round of layoffs in less than a year:

    http://www.businessweek.com/ar... [businessweek.com]

    So they're flailing a bit to try and generate a second revenue stream. I guess VCs are handing out more money than the courts.

"The Avis WIZARD decides if you get to drive a car. Your head won't touch the pillow of a Sheraton unless their computer says it's okay." -- Arthur Miller