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Patents Businesses The Courts

Intellectual Ventures Tied To 1,300 Shell Companies 140

Posted by timothy
from the such-pretty-shells dept.
dgharmon writes "New research (PDF) shows that Intellectual Ventures is tied to at least 1,300 shell companies whose sole purpose is to coerce real companies into buying patent license that they don't want or need. Those who resist the 'patent trolls' are dragged into nightmarish lawsuits."
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Intellectual Ventures Tied To 1,300 Shell Companies

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  • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @03:43PM (#40966501) Journal
    It is strange but many IT entrepreneurs in France don't see the silicon valley as a dreamland. This is a place where you go to get investors, but you certainly don't open a company there. Software patents is really a strategical consideration that make our (moderately) higher tax rates seem a worthy cost.
    • by Daetrin (576516) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @03:54PM (#40966589)
      Don't worry, with today's globalization if you don't come to the patent infringement lawsuits, the patent infringement lawsuits will come to you. After all, the fact that neither Samsung nor Apple is a French company hasn't stopped them from suing each other in France [mashable.com] (along with everywhere else.)
      • by kthreadd (1558445)

        But they make business in France, that's why.

      • by Yvanhoe (564877)
        Yes, it would be good if you kept your hobbyists on your side of the Atlantic, but as much as I find these lawsuits frivolous, it is worth noticing that these were about design patents, not software patents which are still illegal and untested in France.
      • by Splab (574204)

        But those aren't *software* patents.

      • 1300 shell companies all tangled up in a maze of twisty little patent lawsuits sounds like a plot device from Charlie Stross's Accelerando.

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @04:20PM (#40966819) Journal

      It is strange but many IT entrepreneurs in France don't see the silicon valley as a dreamland.

      Ah yes, France, the Mecca of fine IT judgement.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      There is no relation whatsoever between tax rates and software patents. If you want to talk about higher tax rates, you could point out that you can focus on running your business instead of providing health care for your employees.

      Personally, I wouldn't start a company in Silicon Valley unless I was trying to raise VC lucre and sell out as soon as possible. High cost of living, terrible state bureaucracy, etc.

    • And that's why France has such a thriving startup business culture, right?

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Well Duh. French citizens probably want to work in France. No surprise. But certainly it is a nice place to work too if you're American. Cost of living is high, but it's also high in a lot of areas with a booming economy. Weather is nice, the region is great, etc. You just have to put up with the militant cyclists and occasional hipsters from SF (though they rarely venture outside their safety zone).

    • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @08:36PM (#40968723)

      It is strange but many IT entrepreneurs in France don't see the silicon valley as a dreamland.

      I live in Silicon Valley, and I know about a dozen current or former French citizens working here. Starting an IT business in France will give you plenty of bureaucracy and taxes, but no protection from patent lawsuits. You can be sued anywhere you do business, and for most IT companies that means worldwide from the very beginning. I started my first company more than twenty years ago, and was surprised when I announced my first product and my first five orders were all from outside the USA.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It is strange but many IT entrepreneurs in France don't see the silicon valley as a dreamland. This is a place where you go to get investors, but you certainly don't open a company there. Software patents is really a strategical consideration that make our (moderately) higher tax rates seem a worthy cost.

      I have a IT company in France, and I have one in the UK too. And much as I love the place, I have to correct you.

      The only reason my IT company in France is still open, is that its the only legal way for me to be resident here and work from home as it takes on subcon work from the UK company so that I can do the labor side of it. Nobody in their right mind would *choose* to base in the sprawling mess of legislation, visits to the chambiers du metiers, social taxes, rules around business operation and employm

      • by doccus (2020662)
        Actually, I was surprised that you had to go to the lengths you did to state your point here, on /. I would have thought that the fact that France, like Greece and Spain, had to come begging with "hat in hand" to it's EEC overlords, due to a "minor financial imbalance" would make it obvious what the business climate in these countries is like. After all, they didn't get there (in the soup) for no reason at all!
  • FTFA (Score:5, Funny)

    by Daetrin (576516) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @03:47PM (#40966525)

    Patent trolling took off after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office began issuing a flood of questionable âoebusiness methodâ patents related to things like software and, believe it or not, a crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In 2006, lawyers used such a patent to threaten Research in Motion with an injunction against the BlackBerry and extract a $612 million payout.

    Well that's clearly why the BlackBerry has been having trouble in the market, RIM spent too much of their product development time working on sandwiches, and patent infringing sandwiches at that.

    • Re:FTFA (Score:4, Funny)

      by game kid (805301) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @03:50PM (#40966559) Homepage

      I agree. They should've used ice cream instead of peanut butter and jelly, before Google could've caught on to that idea.

    • Re:FTFA (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Smallpond (221300) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @06:31PM (#40967743) Homepage Journal

      Patent trolling took off after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office began issuing a flood of questionable âoebusiness methodâ patents related to things like software and, believe it or not, a crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In 2006, lawyers used such a patent to threaten Research in Motion with an injunction against the BlackBerry and extract a $612 million payout.

      Well that's clearly why the BlackBerry has been having trouble in the market, RIM spent too much of their product development time working on sandwiches, and patent infringing sandwiches at that.

      Blackberry is an obvious mistake. The crustless PB&J uses strawberry.

      Anyway, why hasn't someone pointed out that Intellectual Ventures was founded by the ex-CTO of Microsoft Nathan Myhrvold and still partners with Microsoft on patent deals. Are all the MS haters asleep?

  • Old news (Score:5, Informative)

    by jeti (105266) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @03:48PM (#40966533) Homepage

    This American Life reported this over a year ago. The podcast is well worth hearing:
    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/441/when-patents-attack/ [thisamericanlife.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 12, 2012 @03:51PM (#40966565)

    This is one person who actually does deserve to die. Painfully.

    You know there is an obvious failure in society when shit people like him can get away with doing so much damage to thousands, possibly even millions of people through the effort that actual decent people were putting in to help the poor.

    Funny how regulators and law get involved when a company is copying other people, but when it is a BLATANTLY obvious troll like this, HE GETS AWAY WITH IT. IN A COURTROOM. WHY?! ARE THESE PEOPLE STUPID? Every single one of those judges should be locked up for being clinically unstable.

  • Ahhh... The system works, perfectly. It actually runs itself. Who could ask for more?

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Sunday August 12, 2012 @03:56PM (#40966617)

    Intellectual Ventures are true American heroes!

  • Patent Trolls (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NonSenseAgency (1759800) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @04:19PM (#40966817)
    Sounds like a clear case for the application of the Rico Act.
    • by boorack (1345877) on Monday August 13, 2012 @03:59AM (#40970975)

      There are already laws in place to deal with those crooks. The problem is selective application of laws - ordinary people will be jailed for years for having a little bit of marijuana in possesion, while crooky ruling elite is clearly above the law and they can do whatever they want. And if they break laws (stealing billions in the process), enforcement officials will cover it up (instead of doing what they're supposed to do) or some law retroactively legalizing criminal ruling crooks' behavior will be passed.

      Wake up folks, 2012 US of A is a two-tiered society, pretty much like medieval Europe. Technology and cheap energy is the only thing keeping standard of live relatively high but if it ends, you'll get back into dark ages sooner than you think.

  • hey now (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by phantomfive (622387)

    tied to at least 1,300 shell companies

    Hey now, don't forget corporations are people! This story is racist.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps Kafka needs to assert his IP at this point???
    The Trial [wikipedia.org]

    Oh wait....

  • by joocemann (1273720) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @04:35PM (#40966925)

    This sounds *exactly* like how organized crime (mobs) operate. Where the hell is the FBI I'm paying for? Will they please focus on relevant issues?!?!?!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Nope, too busy working for the MPAA/RIAA raiding foreign websites on controversial and/or illegal grounds.

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @07:40PM (#40968317) Journal
      To point out the obvious, the FBI investigates crimes. Smart criminals decide to not break the law, because then they get the police on their side.

      What these guys are doing is not illegal, just anti-social.
      • by joocemann (1273720) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @08:34PM (#40968701)

        It is illegal to conspire or collude for the purpose of extortion, and it is also illegal to burden the courts with persistent unreasonable litigation.

        The real Mob conducts their 'crime' in similar ways that, on the surface, appear legal. What you see in movies/HBO is not what really goes down.

        This documentary will stream on netflix. You will see why it was hard for the FBI to crack down on the Mob -- that they conducted themselves very much within the scheme of what has the appearance of legal activity.

        http://www.cnbc.com/id/43392317/?__source=vty [cnbc.com]|mobmoney|&par=vty

        If you don't watch it to learn what I mean, I'll give you a breakdown of one example given in the film.

        1) Dude1: decides to build a new construction in a place with mob influence.

        2) Wiseguy1/Wiseguy2 stop by and have a casual conversation about how Dude1 *will* buy his concrete from "Legit Company A", a company that charges about $1/cu.ft. over normal market prices.

        If Dude1 agrees, life goes on as normal and it would appear that Dude1 isn't a good shopper.

        If Dude1 disagrees....

        3) Deliveries from various orders needed for the business never come.
        4) Protests/Picket-lines show up at the build site.

        If Dude1 still disagrees.....

        5) Wiseguy1/Wiseguy2 have a physical intervention that changes Dude1's mind, or ends Dude1.

        ---------

        It isn't a reach to say that the topic at hand follows these same 'on paper' techniques to extort money. It is very much the same a minor difference being that the lawyers don't actually do physical intimidation, but rather legal.

        I hope this has been informative.

        • The real Mob conducts their 'crime' in similar ways that, on the surface, appear legal.

          You're saying that the Mafia doesn't kill people, doesn't sell drugs, and doesn't destroy property to intimidate people? Right.

          • I didn't say that... here's a hint "...on the surface..."

            Also, anyone that knows the mob knows they do not sell drugs. It brings heat and the real mob isn't as risky as the movie mob.

            • I didn't say that... here's a hint "...on the surface..."

              Oh, so you're implying under the surface, Intellectual Ventures is killing people? Or some other illegal activity?

              Also, anyone that knows the mob knows they do not sell drugs.

              Things that 'anyone knows' are often wrong. I don't even know why you think that. I mean, maybe they don't, but they sure get accused of it [guardian.co.uk]. And why not? It's profitable.

              • Watch the documentary I linked earlier so you can understand this conversation. Your quick google search to 'prove' the mob deals drugs is irrelevant and likely an outlier/deviant.

                Once you understand how the mob actually works, then you can re-read this whole conversation and see the striking similarites between the mob and this litgious cabal.

                Or you're a troll...

                • I assume you are referring to this link [cnbc.com]?

                  Once you understand how the mob actually works, then you can re-read this whole conversation and see the striking similarites between the mob and this litgious cabal.

                  The difference is one stays legal and the other doesn't. both are immoral dirtbags.

        • The lawyers do use physical intimidation, if you don't act as directed by a court the Police will physically take action. The Law is the ultimate form of physical intimidation.
  • by machine321 (458769) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @04:39PM (#40966951)

    Summary is wrong, it's actually 1300 Exxon-Mobile companies,.

  • I don't understand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Crypto Gnome (651401) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @04:44PM (#40966981) Homepage Journal
    why anyone is complaining so loudly.

    This behaviour is the natural and logical outcome of the current patent system.

    Did anybody seriously expect anything different?
  • (if you don't get it, RTFA)

    Now that's rich... but hey, I have a proposal, why not cut out the middle man? Instead of siphoning away money from real companies to fight mosquitos, just shut down and presto, one of the biggest parasites of today instantly wiped out.

  • Give IV a break. (Score:4, Informative)

    by sconeu (64226) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @04:51PM (#40967045) Homepage Journal

    They're doing G-d's Work [geekwire.com].

  • by symbolset (646467) * on Sunday August 12, 2012 @04:55PM (#40967069) Journal
    That makes the right strategy "All my wealth for defence, not one dime for tribute." Pay the danegeld and you'll never get rid of the Dane.
  • So easy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @05:09PM (#40967175)
    When congress finally crafts a law to eliminate patent abuse an easy measure of success is if companies like this are destroyed. Not hurt but close up shop like most of the buggy whip companies. When a company exists only to sue vibrant and healthy companies they are a parasite, that is they provide no value to society while simultaneously damaging it.

    The politicians blah blah about cutting red tape and creating jobs but what about protecting us from evil like this? I can't imagine the flowering of new developments that would take place without bloodsuckers like these.

    One of the things that hold third world countries back is that if you have the slightest bit of success some Mr Big / Warlord / Village chief / Crimelord / Well connected bureaucrat will come along and take whatever you have. There are few property rights in these countries. Yet in the western world the bloodsuckers have perverted the very thing that use to make us successful (property rights) where they do the very thing that those property rights were supposed to prevent.

    My suggestions for IP reform are to significantly raise the bar as to what an invention really is. If someone invents a cool new battery don't let someone patent the use of that battery in everything. Shorten the life of a patent from 20 years to 10 years after the first significant use of that product. (or 20 years whichever comes first)

    Software patents; how about no. Change the lifetimes for different categories of patent. Drug patents, 10 years. Material patents 15 years. Electronic patents 5 years.

    Limit the damages to a tiny percentage of the wholesale value of a product.

    Only allow the original inventors or companies that are implementing the product to launch a lawsuit. If you are sitting on a stack of patents they all you are doing is holding back the progress of humanity.

    If a company has more than 30% of a market then make the licensing of their patents mandatory for a nominal cost.

    Don't let universities charge too much for patents. Yet don't let their professors hive of some research to create a company and then patent the crap out of it.

    Have an independent government department for patent invalidation. Having the patent office invalidate a patent is having them say they were wrong. Also judges need to be able to invalidate a patent.

    Again raise the bar for what gets patented. I'm looking at you one-click-purchase!

    If a suit asks for one amount and wins a much lower amount then the difference should be deducted from the awarded amount. So if they ask for a billion and win 100 million then you subtract 900 million resulting in 0 (zero dollars). This should be for all lawsuits.

    Lastly if a lawfirm sues for a patent that later becomes invalidated then they can be hit with treble damages. (That is treble what they demanded.)
    • by CBravo (35450)
      love your post... thanks
    • Change the lifetimes for different categories of patent. Drug patents, 10 years. Material patents 15 years. Electronic patents 5 years.

      While I hold a similar view of how patents have harmed more than helped a lot of innovation, I would disagree with shortening the patent lifetime of a drug to 10 years, as it typically takes 12 years to get a drug from conception to hospitals. This only leaves you 8 years of having your product in the market place to recoup your R&D expenses. Unless you can shorten the approval process to 2 years, it would be unreasonable to shorten the patent lifespan to 10.

      You typically only hear about wonder-drug X w

      • Ah but my suggestion is that the clock partially starts when the sales start. Or a certain number of years. That way if a drug takes a while to go through the pipe then my 10 years hasn't started. But this way if some company completely hits a home run, say curing all cancers, and wants 1 million per dose then they will only get 10 years from that golden goose. Right now if you hit that home run I suspect that regulatory approval would be near instant and it would be 2032 before it went generic.

        Keep in m
        • Except it wouldn't. You don't have "The Cure for Cancer" _until_ it has passed the efficacy and safety trials. It's all well and good identifying a molecule in a lab that you think is sure-fire at killing cancer cells in rats/mice. It's another thing altogether to prove that it works in humans (including performing a placebo trial) and doesn't kill patients.

          To do this you have to manufacture it in that bona fide factory, so that there's no side effects of the manufacturing process i.e. you have to make real

  • Problem solved. Many problems solved.

    Might wanna go ahead to take out west texas too. Maybe flood the state, keep the big cities above water?

    • Problem solved. Many problems solved.

      Might wanna go ahead to take out west texas too. Maybe flood the state, keep the big cities above water?

      If you flood Texas, many of the big metro areas will inundate first. That might be a Real Good Thing (tm).

      Fortunately, I live at a relatively high altitude in a sparsely populated area.

      Bring it on!

  • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Sunday August 12, 2012 @08:49PM (#40968801)

    If corporations were people, it would take 9 months of effort and hundreds of pounds of input to create one and you wouldn't be finished until you had successfully pushed a watermelon through a garden hose.

    Instead we have this company spawning 1300 "children" in a year or two. Ridiculous.

    Sounds like Charlie Stross got it right in Accelerando--as a reaction to those 1300 corporations, useful corporations with actual products are going to have to react defensively, and in an exactly reciprocal fashion. Samsung is going to have to spawn 1300 child corporations and use them to hide their assets. "Oh, you were trying to sue for infringement of your phone interface? I'm sorry, Samsung Electronics 867 doesn't produce that phone. Try Samsung Electronics 335." *ring* "Samsung Electronics 335. Oh, no, you can't sue us for that phone interface. We sold it yesterday. To whom? Call back tomorrow." *ring* "Samsung Electronics 335. Yes, we sold that phone interface to Samsung Electronics 779." *ring* "Samsung Electronics 779. Oh no, you can't sue us for that phone interface. We sold it yesterday. To whome? Call back tomorrow..."

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Intellectual Ventures is a clearing house of patent troll-dom. They aren't the only ones mind you, but they are among the worst. Rat Bastards!

  • Because I was expecting to find an article about a large number of shell subsidiaries. http://www.shell.com/ [shell.com]

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it!) but "That's funny ..." -- Isaac Asimov

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