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11.12.08

Searete a Part of Intellectual Ventures, a Patent-trolling Firm

Posted in Bill Gates, Intellectual Monopoly, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 7:05 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Troll in the garden

“Microsoft hardly needs an SCO source license. Its license payment to SCO is simply a good-looking way to pass along a bribe…”

Bruce Perens

A couple of days ago we explained why Bill Gates was becoming a patent troll, just like his friend and colleague Nathan Myhrvold. Todd Bishop’s report about Searete (and Bill Gates) now suggests that it is part of the umbrella that’s the world’s largest patent troll, Intellectual Ventures LLC.

Bill Gates and several of Microsoft’s top technologists are credited as inventors in eight newly disclosed U.S. patent applications. That isn’t a surprise. But here’s where it starts to get unusual: The applications weren’t made on Microsoft’s behalf.

[...]

Here’s what we know: An entity called Searete LLC applied for the patents. Searete is part of Intellectual Ventures LLC, the Bellevue-based invention house run by Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft’s former chief technology officer. Myhrvold’s company has stirred controversy with its large patent hoard.

Slashdot’s summary is a particularly good one because of the useful links.

“TechFlash reports that Microsoft bigwigs like Craig Mundie and Bill Gates (when he still worked there) have been secretly moonlighting at Intellectual Ventures (IV), the ‘patent extortion fund‘ run by Bill’s pal Nathan Myhrvold. A Microsoft spokesman confirmed that its technologists have been sitting in on IV-sponsored ‘innovation sessions,’ where their pearls of wisdom were captured and turned into patent applications for Searete, an IV shadow corporate entity. And if all goes well, Searete will soon enjoy exclusive rights to the fruit of the brainstorming, which includes processes ranging from determining and rewarding ‘influencers’ to treating malaria, HIV, TB, hepatitis, smallpox, and cancer.”

A contributor and informant of ours found this much older article about the relationship between Myhrvold and Gates, among other things. Here is a gem:

If Microsoft had simply bundled the RIP technology in the next version of its operating systems, the World Wide Web may have evolved in a very different way, leaving nothing for Netscape to create.

Groklaw highlights this one from September:

Just like in the story-line of Independence Day, where the alien death ships slowly but surely positioned themselves over each major city, with the eventual outcome well understood, so too is Intellectual Ventures (I.V.) slowly positioning itself as the patent overlord over many major industry segments. Just like in the movie, the eventual outcome is well understood. To wit: Complete usurpation of the U.S. Patent system. The outcome is a ,gigantic tax/toll collector controlling the pulse of innovation in the U.S. or, like the move, extermination of innovation.

The 20,000 patents, and growing, in the I.V. portfolio have each withstood an average of but 14 hours of scrutiny by the U.S. Patent Office. That’s it; less than 2 business days of total review to issue a property right that, when amassed as I.V. has done, can inflict great pain ($ 1 Billion per) upon an entire industry. But here’s why the Emperor has no clothes: In any collection of patents, bar none, about 95% of the patents reflect the worth of their 14 hours of individual scrutiny. In addition, the Supreme Court, last year, re-wrote the standard of review (KSR V. TeleFlex). In short, these patents are not worth the paper they are printed on. But, owing to the excessive cost and uncertainty to have a second look at these patents either during the course of litigation, or through the Patent Office Reexamination procedures, most victims of this licensing extortion racket meekly pay-up. What Myhrvold has wrought is an obscene abuse of the patent system. It should be stopped, either by industry groups banding together to file reexaminations, or by Congress, or both.

To summarise, what we apparently have here is the regrouping of people who work outside Microsoft and accumulate weaponry which can be used in a patent troll-like fashion, whereby litigation or extortion cannot be suppressed by a counter-lawsuits. Intellectual Ventures and Searete have no actual products, and there is no plan to have any.

Bearing in mind the Acacia incident [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11], these guys need to be watched closely.

patent threat
Photo under the GNU Free Documentation license

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