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Intellectual Ventures' Patent Protection Racket 152

Posted by kdawson
from the know-people-who-know-people dept.
David Gerard writes "Nathan Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures doesn't sue people over patents, because that would be patent trolling! No, instead they just threaten to sell the patent to a known litigious patent troll. So that's all right then. Timothy Lee details how using patents to crush profitable innovation works in practice, and concludes: 'In thinking about how to reform the patent system, a good yardstick would be to look for policy changes that would tend to put Myhrvold and his firm out of business.'"
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Intellectual Ventures' Patent Protection Racket

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  • All talk... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by religious freak (1005821) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @05:23PM (#29358449)
    When is something going to actually be done about this??? It's been a topic of discussion for years, it impacts major companies in a net negative way and still nothing gets done. I don't understand it...
  • by noidentity (188756) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @05:24PM (#29358467)

    Nathan Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures doesn't sue people over patents, because that would be patent trolling! No, instead they just threaten to sell the patent to a known litigious patent troll. So that's all right then. Timothy Lee details how using patents to crush profitable innovation works in practice, and concludes: 'In thinking about how to reform the patent system, a good yardstick would be to look for policy changes that would tend to put Myhrvold and his firm out of business.'

    Please, summarize without injecting your childish sarcasm; save those for a comment reply. For example:

    In order to avoid blatant patent trolling, Nathan Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures doesn't sue people over patents; they instead threaten to sell the patent to a known litigious patent troll. Timothy Lee details how using patents to crush profitable innovation works in practice, and concludes: 'In thinking about how to reform the patent system, a good yardstick would be to look for policy changes that would tend to put Myhrvold and his firm out of business.'

    I much prefer the latter summary to the former, and I doubt I'm alone.

  • by haruchai (17472) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @05:25PM (#29358485)

      Despite his considerable intellect, he didn't accomplish much of note at M$ and now has sunk even lower. He should stick to cooking
    and taking photos.

  • by haruchai (17472) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @05:35PM (#29358607)

    Nathan Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures doesn't sue people over patents, because that would be patent trolling! No, instead they just threaten to sell the patent to a known litigious patent troll. So that's all right then. Timothy Lee details how using patents to crush profitable innovation works in practice, and concludes: 'In thinking about how to reform the patent system, a good yardstick would be to look for policy changes that would tend to put Myhrvold and his firm out of business.'

    Please, summarize without injecting your childish sarcasm; save those for a comment reply. For example:

    In order to avoid blatant patent trolling, Nathan Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures doesn't sue people over patents; they instead threaten to sell the patent to a known litigious patent troll. Timothy Lee details how using patents to crush profitable innovation works in practice, and concludes: 'In thinking about how to reform the patent system, a good yardstick would be to look for policy changes that would tend to put Myhrvold and his firm out of business.'

    I much prefer the latter summary to the former, and I doubt I'm alone.

    And, I don't really care, so long as the linked article is interesting and informative, and I doubt I'm alone.

  • by NoYob (1630681) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @05:45PM (#29358757)

    make it the lesser of three, 20 years. or 5 years from the first licensed product containing the patent being available for sale, or 7 years from the first infringing product being available for sale.

    The only thing I can see there it wouldn't worth it for the inventor is if he invented something that can't be priced to recoup the investment in R&D , let alone make a profit, in that time frame.

    Then there are inventions that are ahead of their time and there aren't too many profitable applications for a while - the LASER comes to mind. The Laser was invented in 1958 at Bell Labs, bit it didn't see widespread use until what, the 1980s? So, what will happen in a time from of 7 years or less would be that the inventor has spent all that time and money on R&D and would be unable to reap the benefits.

  • Myhrvold is evil (Score:3, Insightful)

    by the_povinator (936048) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @05:47PM (#29358771) Homepage
    Some time ago I was having a conversation with some people about whether extrajudicial killing can ever be justified, and Nathan Myhrvold was the one person who we agreed there was really no good argument against it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @05:54PM (#29358871)

    Many (like myself) will point out that the difference between the time of invention and the expiration of the patent correspond with the time it took for the invention to become popular.

  • by causality (777677) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @05:59PM (#29358935)

    Nathan Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures doesn't sue people over patents, because that would be patent trolling! No, instead they just threaten to sell the patent to a known litigious patent troll. So that's all right then. Timothy Lee details how using patents to crush profitable innovation works in practice, and concludes: 'In thinking about how to reform the patent system, a good yardstick would be to look for policy changes that would tend to put Myhrvold and his firm out of business.'

    Please, summarize without injecting your childish sarcasm; save those for a comment reply. For example:

    In order to avoid blatant patent trolling, Nathan Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures doesn't sue people over patents; they instead threaten to sell the patent to a known litigious patent troll. Timothy Lee details how using patents to crush profitable innovation works in practice, and concludes: 'In thinking about how to reform the patent system, a good yardstick would be to look for policy changes that would tend to put Myhrvold and his firm out of business.'

    I much prefer the latter summary to the former, and I doubt I'm alone.

    I don't believe this happens in isolation. I think it's directly caused by the frustration of seeing repeated instances of abusive behavior. That this abusive behavior is legal means that there is currently very little that anyone can do about it. No decent person enjoys seeing injustice with no remedy. That this might be revealed in the way a summary is worded is not really surprising. You certainly can successfully argue that it is less than professional, but I think that's much more useful when it's balanced by an appreciation of the cause and effect that explains why it happens.

  • by NoYob (1630681) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @06:04PM (#29358995)
    Thus governments of the day can adjust it up or down - up likely means more inventions but higher costs to the eventual consumer, lower means cheaper toys but less R&D.

    You make it sound so neat and easy. It's Government your talking about.

  • by way2trivial (601132) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @06:07PM (#29359043) Homepage Journal

    The obvious solution (imho)

    kinda like trademarks, --with trademarks you have to defend them or lose them.
    Patents- you get say one year- if you can't show it is in use-- it's released.....

  • by nomadic (141991) <[nomadicworld] [at] [gmail.com]> on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @06:08PM (#29359055) Homepage
    Some time ago I was having a conversation with some people about whether extrajudicial killing can ever be justified, and Nathan Myhrvold was the one person who we agreed there was really no good argument against it.

    Really? Because someone is doing something you find immoral/unethical? Stealing is wrong, do you condone extrajudicial killing for thieves?
  • by mckinnsb (984522) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @06:17PM (#29359165)

    Exactly. We are all pretty steamed about this and I would not qualify this behavior as childish sarcasm; I would qualify it as sarcasm generally held by a community reflected through the medium delivered to the community. I think it is pretty safe to say that 80-90% of people here on ./ would like to see some serious Software patent reform and we are pretty exasperated about that reform not happening. I am willing to submit that certainly, that is not every ./ reader. However, the fact that new businesses are being established which further exploit the broken system could easily anger the ./ reader whom is exasperated(I would like to clarify that I don't think that is the intent here). While sarcasm in journalism is generally not called for or necessarily professional (there has been far too much of it lately, I will agree with you there), sometimes it is admissible because it reflects the elevation of tension in the community, and that is really what the reporter's job is - to tell everybody else whats going on on the ground.

    It is important to realize that /. is not a pure news site, being in the transient twilit realm of new media. It mostly links 'real' (old media) news, and the rest of its independently generated content mostly consist of reviews, journal entries, and interviews. However, I am not surprised that people expect ./ to follow some journalistic standards.

    kdawson does lay it on a little thick sometimes, and I wish he would have more discretion in using that particular journalistic device, but I will give him a personal 'pass' on this one.

  • by larry bagina (561269) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @06:17PM (#29359167) Journal
    AT&T had more than enough monopoly money, so Bell Labs didn't patent their research. And we (everyone other than AT&T) are collectively better off for it.
  • by deblau (68023) <slashdot.25.flickboy@spamgourmet.com> on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @06:19PM (#29359195) Journal

    Big pharma would cry bloody murder, since it costs about a billion dollars to bring a single drug to market through theoretical research, synthesis, isolation, pharmacology, clinical trials, more clinical trials, and final FDA marketing approval.

    Also, we signed an international agreement [wikipedia.org] saying we wouldn't.

  • by dfetter (2035) <david@fetter.org> on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @06:24PM (#29359235) Homepage Journal

    Acquiring a fortune isn't the same thing as actually accomplishing something. Frequently, it's a matter of being at the right place at the right time. Come to think of it, I know of no fortune that would be possible without that essential bit of luck.

  • by CannonballHead (842625) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @06:40PM (#29359411)

    Which means that only rich inventors are able to accomplish something. Great!

  • by Desler (1608317) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @06:40PM (#29359415)

    Patents- you get say one year- if you can't show it is in use-- it's released.....

    Yeah, because it never takes more than 1 year to get from invention to full-scale production on a product.

  • by dfetter (2035) <david@fetter.org> on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @06:44PM (#29359453) Homepage Journal

    I'll worry about the Berne Convention when they start enforcing everything in the Geneva Convention, all they way to the top.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @06:46PM (#29359469)

    The problem with really short patent times, is many products, especially higher tech ones, can take years to develop to the point they are ready for wide spread sale. Well it'd suck to get a patent on your new expensive R&D and then have it run out before the product is on sale.

    A better idea would be a "use it or lose it" clause. Basically what it would amount to is that you'd have a limited amount of time, like 6-12 months maybe, from when a product that uses your patent is introduced to contact them about licensing. If you don't, the patent goes away since you failed to use it. So if you have a patent and you are serious about it, then when someone rolls out a product that uses it you contact them and say "Hey, we want royalties for that." However you have to do it while the product is new to the market. You can't wait 10 years until it is a very successful widely used technology, and then try to hold them ransom.

    In this way, it is fair to all parties. The patent holders get compensated for their work if people use it. People bringing a product to market learn about patent issues early and can decide if the cost is worth it.

    Also part of that would probably be a clause like yours, in that someone, you or anyone else, has to bring it to market within 5 years or the patent goes away.

    So something like: When you get a patent, it is valid for 20 years, however if no product is brought to market within 5 using it, the patent goes away. If a product is brought to market using it, you have 6 months to contact the company about royalties, or the patent goes away.

    I think such a system would be pretty fair to all parties and work to ensure that people actually make use of their patents, rather than trying to hoard them and extort others.

  • by sjames (1099) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @06:55PM (#29359555) Homepage

    Considering that corporations today are seriously allergic to anything long term and often barely manage to see beyond the next quarter, it's doubtful that anything that couldn't fully recoup development costs and turn a nice profit in 5 years TOTAL would be pursued at all. Even Bell Labs has turned away from the sort of basic research that gained it it's reputation these days to focus on shorter term profit.

  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @06:58PM (#29359573)

    signed agreements?

    that's just paper. paper means nothing anymore. see: constitution, if you still believe that paper has any weight anymore ($1 = 1g, but that's about all the weight it carries).

    governments break agreements all the time. so do companies. so do people.

    ethics are just 'in the way'. this is the new century, afterall!

  • by sjames (1099) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @06:58PM (#29359577) Homepage

    We need a metric that doesn't involve a court trying to determine if some fuzzy thing is true. Part of the damage from patents now is the extreme cost of patent litigation.

  • by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus DOT slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @07:10PM (#29359657) Homepage Journal

    The obvious solution (imho)

    kinda like trademarks, --with trademarks you have to defend them or lose them. Patents- you get say one year- if you can't show it is in use-- it's released.....

    Pharmaceuticals may require as many as 7-10 years of testing before the FDA approves them. Does that count as "in use", even though the manufacturer isn't making a single dollar from them?

  • by orkysoft (93727) <orkysoft@myr[ ]box.com ['eal' in gap]> on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @07:31PM (#29359877) Journal

    give me one GOOD reason why copyright should extend BEYOND the author's death.

    To discourage big media companies from ordering hits ON, rather than FOR their stars.

  • by Lloyd_Bryant (73136) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @08:07PM (#29360271)

    Multiply the cost of development by I to arrive at $1.2 million. ACME Inc applies for a patent on their wonder drug, and it is deemed novel thus granted. A new pool is created with a value of $1.2 million.

    I question whether using the actual cost of development is viable. In the case of drugs, a company may have to pay to develop 20 drugs before they get one that actually works and is profitable - that area research has a very high failure rate (drugs that don't work, have too many undesirable side effects, etc). Using actual cost of development could kill areas of research where it's expected that a small number of successes will offset the expenses of the large number of failures.

    Pro - the size of the pool is determined by the audited cost of development. Thus you cannot make millions off something trivial or obvious.

    I would consider this on a Con, rather than a Pro. You're basically setting up a system which will only benefit "big" inventions (meaning those funded by wealthy individuals or corporations). Consider the following scenario - working in my garage, I come up with some invention for a trivial amount, but which has massive utility (let's use the "better mousetrap" as an example). I only spend a few hundred dollars working on it, so the pool would be very small. MegaSuperEverything Corporation then jumps in, and for a trivial amount of money obtains the rights, and proceeds to sell many millions of them thanks to their existing marketing/distribution channels, while I can only sell a handful because of the competition. Knowing that this is likely to happen, what incentive do I have to patent the invention?

    Con - The second entrant to the pool has the advantage of not needing to do the R&D yet can immediately benefit from the invention. First mover advantage might not be enough to offset this. Perhaps could be solved by throttling the entry rate to the pool.

    Just have a decaying rate. For instance, in year one, the pool would be cost of development times 100 (or higher). In year 2, it drops to 75x. Year three down to 50x. Have a floor, so that after 10 years, it's at 1.5x, and remains there until the patent expires. This would tend to preserve the first mover advantage, without compromising the concept (provided the decay rate is reasonable).

  • Re:All talk... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @08:15PM (#29360349)
    Maybe if you backed up your contrarian attitude with an argument, people would listen to you.
  • by speedtux (1307149) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @08:29PM (#29360469)

    Good ideas are a dime a dozen. The hard part is making a business out of them.

    Apple, for example, has hardly ever come up with any original ideas, but they have done an excellent job turning other people's good ideas into successful products.

  • by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithy.gmail@com> on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @02:28AM (#29362825)

    The creator's family is actually a pretty decent reason. (And, I suspect, the reason that the law was put in place.)

    Only if you think companies should be legally required to continue to pay their employee's salaries after they die.

    Consider two people, one who creates tangible goods, such as gas stations, and one who creates intellectual property, such as novels. If both of them died today, what would they leave behind in their estate? Of course, both would leave behind any financial earnings from their business as well as things that they had purchased. But what about each person's 'legacy.'

    This is simply a matter of timing. If the gas station owner dies while he's still owing a large proportion of the initial expenses endured acquiring it, then his family will get squat. On the other hand, if the author dies after releasing his first blockbuster (but while finishing the second), then his family are going to get a lot of money.

  • by Gribflex (177733) on Friday September 11, 2009 @12:28PM (#29391149) Homepage

    Only if you think companies should be legally required to continue to pay their employee's salaries after they die.

    Salary: No.
    Royalties: Yes.

    I also think that royalties should be paid to people even after they cease being an employee, unlike a salary.

That does not compute.

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