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

timothy posted about two weeks ago | from the look-sir-it-has-atoms dept.

Patents 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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Happy Thursday from The Golden Girls! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47828903)

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say, thank you for being a friend.

Re:Happy Thursday from The Golden Girls! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47829325)

That should be 'taikonaut'

The only lesson to learn from this (5, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about two weeks ago | (#47828919)

Is that punishing patent trolls causes innovation.

Re:The only lesson to learn from this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47828953)

Is that punishing patent trolls causes innovation.

And what the fuck does it matter when 99% of the innovation sits inside a monopoly?

Seems we forgot about that other rather massive fuck-up we let spiral out of control along with the patent system...allowing monopolies to happen.

Re:The only lesson to learn from this (3, Interesting)

i kan reed (749298) | about two weeks ago | (#47829085)

What it matters is that it gets done. Patents exist for a limited time frame. Now there's a lot of economic harm that can happen in that time frame, but the hypothetical argument is that the long-term consequences of new ideas fostered by patents are positive.

Are they actually beneficial? I'm as skeptical as anyone about it, and don't know how you'd even begin to measure it.
But patent trolls being forced to design and build things? That is an undeniable situational improvement over the status quo.

Re:The only lesson to learn from this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47829293)

But how do we know they are actually doing something and not just lying like they always do? Right. There is no way to know. So the situation is exactly the same as before.

Re:The only lesson to learn from this (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about two weeks ago | (#47829413)

We don't! We don't know anything! A court of law can establish it if it's ever relevant.

Re:The only lesson to learn from this (1)

geekoid (135745) | about two weeks ago | (#47829591)

Yes, they are. There are companies pouring billions into different research so something will pan out and they can make money.
As someone who has had an idea stolen, and implemented ti a big success, by a large financial istution I may be biased. OTOH, had I got paid I would have been able to fund my lab and quit working.

"But patent trolls being forced to design and build things? "
which is wrong. The inventor of the LASER did not have the tools or money to build the first laser. It would have not been technically feasible to do it in a garage.
So, he should have been completely screwed? What if you invent a new type of neutron back-plain for a nuclear reactor? should you not be able to get compensated because you can't build a nuclear reactor? afford the material?

Keep you're ire for business method patents, software patent, and people who patent things that already exist.

Re:The only lesson to learn from this (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about two weeks ago | (#47829595)

Quick question. Which of my questions were you answering?

Re:The only lesson to learn from this (2)

morgauxo (974071) | about two weeks ago | (#47829709)

Ok, easy answer. You don't HAVE to build anything. But if you don't you have to at least make your patent available for licensing to someone who will. If you go too long without doing either you risk losing the patent. (you do get to appeal the loss of the patent, if there are special circumstances that delayed you doing something with it) Rather than patent trolls waiting to sue someone we should have patent houses with open catalogs that anyone can browse and buy licenses. Actually, I was tempted to say that having your patent available for someone to buy licenses is enough to show you are doing something with it and therefore you get to keep it. I don't think that would work though because trolls could just price the license too high on purpose and go back to pouncing and suing.

No armchair lawyers, I know this isn't how it works. I am speaking hypothetically about how it COULD work, maybe even how it SHOULD work. Hell, anything is better than how it actually "works" today!

Re:The only lesson to learn from this (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about two weeks ago | (#47829775)

That's what IV does.

They license their patents.

And sue. They do both. So we've come full circle.

Re:The only lesson to learn from this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47830463)

They license their patents.

Which ones? The mosquito hunting laser?

And sue. They do both. So we've come full circle.

Because for every patent that becomes worldwide news and no idiot would copy without licensing, they seem to have thousands more that they've bought off of someone that nobody had ever heard of or knew about and are running to the courts with them to make their money back.

Re:The only lesson to learn from this (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about two weeks ago | (#47829253)

Yeah. When my college physics professor in 1999 gets paid more than $1 of his $150 book sold at the college bookstore, per copy sold, I will feel for these intellectual property hogging bloddsucker management firms. Until then they can all go fuck themselves.

Why even sign that piece of trash? (1)

tepples (727027) | about two weeks ago | (#47829475)

So why did the professor sign the rights over to an incumbent major publisher instead of just hiring an editor and self-publishing the thing?

Re:Why even sign that piece of trash? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47829559)

The answer is "because $1.00 is greater than $0.00". If you want your textbook to sell to more than just YOUR captive students (where you can require a certain text) then it is going to be from a major publisher or it isn't going to sell any copies.

Re:Why even sign that piece of trash? (1)

tepples (727027) | about two weeks ago | (#47829635)

If you want your textbook to sell to more than just YOUR captive students (where you can require a certain text) then it is going to be from a major publisher or it isn't going to sell any copies.

If this is true, I'd like to look at the evidence. Have professors written about having trouble convincing other professors to use their self-published textbooks?

Re:Why even sign that piece of trash? (0)

Dishevel (1105119) | about two weeks ago | (#47829781)

Educators are notoriously lazy.

It would surprise me greatly if these lazy shitheads can do anything that is not handed to them by a corporate rep.

Re:Why even sign that piece of trash? (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about two weeks ago | (#47842315)

Educators are notoriously exploited, and not lazy at all.

Re:Why even sign that piece of trash? (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | about two weeks ago | (#47849217)

Notoriously exploited. Awesome. A group of people that only have to work 9 months out of the year and get every holiday possible. A group of people that in my state after just a few years can not be fired. People that have had massive raises and make 6 figure incomes with retirement packages that are some of the best you can get and have while getting massive amounts of money funneled to them have overseen changing education to the point where you can graduate high school and not be able to read the back of a cereal box. I would love to see these people more than exploited. I want to see them gone.

Re:Why even sign that piece of trash? (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about two weeks ago | (#47842311)

Because that's what these intellectual property hogging punks made him do. That's what they always do. They are not in the 50/50 let's share business, but in the we can throw anyone a bone and they should kiss our asses for it business. These punk are in the business of collecting ideas, buying them for a measly price, then relicensing it at a huge price, and make profit. Money makes the world go round, for them, it's their money at the expense of everyone else around them. That's life. It's like, if I have an idea, why should I sell it to them for $1, and agree that it's their intellectual property, when it's something I might want to do in the future, and then I'd be required to repurchase the rights to it for $1 billion. Stupid you if you sign anything over to these punks. The way to greet intellectual property management firms knocking on your door trying to "screw" you out of your liberty to think and act freely by bribing you with a dollar to turn those ideas into property, into their property, is with a shotgun barrel to their nose.

Re:The only lesson to learn from this (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about two weeks ago | (#47829133)

$700 million in licensing revenue in 2010 alone.

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

Re:The only lesson to learn from this (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | about two weeks ago | (#47830829)

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.

Madness?
This is PATENTS!!!

I don't buy it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47828925)

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.

Hello Cum Lovers (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47828939)

Long time no see :)

(btw, I was watching Linux crash on a friend's PC the other day. Looks like it's still a PIECE OF SHIT)

Re:Hello Cum Lovers (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about two weeks ago | (#47830237)

Long time no see :)

(btw, I was watching Linux crash on a friend's PC the other day. Looks like it's still a PIECE OF SHIT)

You must be from IV, here to troll us in another way.

Once a troll (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47828979)

Always a troll...

This is not new information (5, Informative)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about two weeks ago | (#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!

Waterless washing machines (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about two weeks ago | (#47829025)

Are they using unwet water?

Re:Waterless washing machines (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about two weeks ago | (#47829047)

they might use some solvent besides water. ooo, I had a stroke of marketing genius, we could call it "Dry Cleaning"

Dryel (1)

tepples (727027) | about two weeks ago | (#47829581)

Here's a 5-minute infomercial for Dryel [youtube.com] , a product that turns your home dryer into a dry cleaner. Was IV involved with bringing Dryel to market?

Mosquito laser (4, Insightful)

dfsmith (960400) | about two weeks ago | (#47829171)

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

Re:Mosquito laser (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47829693)

I really want a laser drone blaster!

Re:Mosquito laser (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47835295)

Hopefully those mosquitoes won't come to close to the eyes of your guests.

Mosquito laser (1)

geekfarmer (2076616) | about two weeks ago | (#47837825)

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

I logged in for the first time in ages specifically to upvote this, but I don't have any points.

Bake Your Feces (-1, Troll)

sexconker (1179573) | about two weeks ago | (#47829203)

Have you tried baked feces? It's great!

The next time you have to defecate, do so onto a microwave / oven safe plate. There's no need to be neat, just get your feces onto the plate.
Once your bowels are sufficiently emptied, spread the solid waste into an even layer covering the flat portion of the plate. Drain off any liquids, then use a damp cloth or paper towel to wipe the edges of the plate clean.
Microwave your plate of feces on the lowest power setting until it is completely dried (at least an hour). If your feces starts to burn you may have to use a regular oven at a low temperature (160-175 Fahrenheit) for a longer period of time.
Your feces is done when it's completely solid, dry, and slightly crisp. Once it cools, you should be able to remove the disc of feces from the plate in one piece using a spatula. If this is difficult, try putting the plate in the freezer for a few minutes.

Season your disc of feces with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Intellectual Vultures? (5, Funny)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about two weeks ago | (#47829235)

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

Re:Intellectual Vultures? (1)

erice (13380) | about two weeks ago | (#47830253)

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?

Re:Intellectual Vultures? (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about two weeks ago | (#47831173)

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.

17K buys your soul (1)

maliqua (1316471) | about two weeks ago | (#47829333)

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

Re:17K buys your soul (1)

SydShamino (547793) | about two weeks ago | (#47829957)

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 companies and people I disagree with, but I would happily sell to them.

Re:17K buys your soul (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | about two weeks ago | (#47831489)

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.

If IV make products, where are these products? (4, Insightful)

erice (13380) | about two weeks ago | (#47829361)

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.

Obvisouly! (0)

VGPowerlord (621254) | about two weeks ago | (#47829405)

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.

Dhu!

my idea is free (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47829437)

GO AWAY

THere still isn't any reason (1)

geekoid (135745) | about two weeks ago | (#47829541)

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 small inventor.
Again.

Re:THere still isn't any reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47829729)

no data sows it actually hurts innovation.

No data? Have you honestly looked? http://bit.ly/1qhE7dK

Re:THere still isn't any reason (2)

morgauxo (974071) | about two weeks ago | (#47829859)

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 try to make a product. Patent trolls hurt us all.

If YOU are a small inventor and you have a good idea you cannot implement yourself then by all means, sell it to someone who can and will. Don't feel entitled to become instantly rich. The hard work is going to be in testing, implementing and marketing the idea. We already established that you will not be doing that. If it's good then you should be able to expect a nice pay day though. If you think the world owes you free lunch for life just because you came up with an idea which you will now jealously gaurd and make sure the world (now paying your way) doesn't benefit from that idea for the next 20 years... well screw you then!

Re:THere still isn't any reason (2)

Copid (137416) | about two weeks ago | (#47830145)

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 search through mountains of patents to see if somebody, somewhere has done it before and is just sitting on the patent. A system that puts a greater burden on inventors who bring things to market than on inventors who don't is not balanced correctly. Maintaining a patent monopoly should require continuous effort to put that idea to work in something useful.

Re:THere still isn't any reason (1)

TheCarp (96830) | about two weeks ago | (#47830813)

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 situation where a company with some money and a lack of scruples could make for a very expensive uphill battle to prove....and it would just end up being one more benefit large companies with deep pockets and lack of scruples have over independent inventors.

Re:THere still isn't any reason (1)

Copid (137416) | about two weeks ago | (#47831149)

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 there's some urgency to get the damn thing to market.

Several related companies could easily license each other's patents in exchange for licensing eachother's patents just to keep them current.

This is a more interesting problem, but the first regulatory question should be, "So, Mr. Licensee, what product are you using that patent you licensed in?" If somebody tries to sue you over a patent they've been sitting on for 15 years, the first thing you ask is if the patent has been exercised enough to still be valid, and you check to see if the licensees have actually brought it to market in a meaningful way. If not, that's a strong argument that the patent should have been invalidated. It doesn't eliminate the need for courts to deal with the issue, but it does create more of a burden on the patent holder to create a track record of getting the ideas to market. If companies cross-license patents and bring real products to market in order to keep their patents active, I'd argue that it's a win as long as the functionality is actually there and not a sham.

Re:THere still isn't any reason (1)

TheCarp (96830) | about two weeks ago | (#47834359)

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 people incentive to share their ideas is likely no longer necessary, because their consent to sharing is widely irrelevant.

Hasn't this been going on for years? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47829589)

I'm pretty sure Intellectual Ventures has been playing this game for years, and have yet to produce a single product. They "invented" the photonic fence claiming it would be some great thing for mosquito born disease regions. And besides a few lab prototypes there have been no signs of an actual product. Meanwhile they apply for about 450 patents a year and are raking in billions in revenue.

In defense of Patent Trolls (4, Insightful)

IcyHando'Death (239387) | about two weeks ago | (#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.

Re:In defense of Patent Trolls (2)

IcyHando'Death (239387) | about two weeks ago | (#47829711)

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

Re:In defense of Patent Trolls (0)

WrongMonkey (1027334) | about two weeks ago | (#47829847)

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.

Re:In defense of Patent Trolls (3, Interesting)

Skarjak (3492305) | about two weeks ago | (#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:In defense of Patent Trolls (0)

dnebin (594347) | about two weeks ago | (#47829923)

bullshit.

You, the inventor, sell your soul for 17k. IV doesn't turn your idea into a product. Instead they look at what other smart guys and deep pocket companies are creating, claim a murkey relation to the patent they purchased but did nothing about, then try to sue them for millions - some will fight, some will settle, some will lose, but in the end IV makes well more than 17k w/o doing a thing.

Before you go defending IV or any other patent troll, do the following calculation - Divide the number of lawsuits by the number of real products for sale. Any result greater than 1 does not deserve your defense, and the result you get for IV is totally indefensible.

Re:In defense of Patent Trolls (2)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | about two weeks ago | (#47830719)

Interesting. Have you done any licensing deals (as inventor or licensee) with IV? I have. At the time, it was $10,000 per invention filed. Oh, and 15% of the gross revenue for any license fees they receive for that patent (or, if a group of patents, like 100, you get 15% of 1/100th of the total licensing fee paid)

So far, of the few I've gotten with IV (started doing some work with them back in 2008, in areas outside my normal area of expertise), one has been licensed and I do get a nice annual check from them. I'm not sure how I see this is a downside as I was able to get paid for creating in an area I wasn't working, and continue to do so. Kind of like this normal thing called "work", except for my off-hours tinkering in other fields.

Re:In defense of Patent Trolls (2)

amaurea (2900163) | about two weeks ago | (#47831069)

How many of those who are paying license fees or settlements to intellectual ventures for your patent (and indirectly paying you) had read your patent before infringing on it? If they hadn't, how does you and intellectual ventures being paid help society or speed up innvoation in any way? If it were me receiving money from intellectual ventures, I would feel pretty bad about it.

Re:In defense of Patent Trolls (1)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | about two weeks ago | (#47832027)

To the best of my knowledge, not a single person infringed on the patent. About 90% of the revenue that IV makes is not from suing for infringement - but from licensing out blocks of existing IP (solutions) to companies interested in certain sectors. My one licensed patent was in energy storage, and was licensed with a few hundred other patents in alternative energy solutions - presumably by someone interested in working in that industry.

Personally, I feel great about that patent. I was given the resources needed to research a new area, I came up with a novel solution, I earned the patent, I was paid for it - and now people are licensing it to consider using it. It's always great when your ideas can come to fruition. Of course, I also hold many other patents as well (personally) and license several of those out, and make good money doing so (they are implemented regularly by a few dozen major consumer electronics firms). It's a much better return than the patents I've created whilst on the payroll of a company, where it might be $500 and a certificate - and nothing more...

Re:In defense of Patent Trolls (1)

Dereck1701 (1922824) | about two weeks ago | (#47830735)

It should be noted that, at least from what I can gather, most of IV's revenue isn't from actual lawsuits. A vast bulk of it is from "license fees" (in the billions of dollars apparently) they grant to companies for using "their technology". Given, they probably illicit those fees via threats of lawsuits. The company had a peak of 700 employees (I think its down into the 500 range now) with revenues close to a $1 Billion a year, and few if any real products to show for it.

Re:In defense of Patent Trolls (1)

amaurea (2900163) | about two weeks ago | (#47831091)

Do yuo have a source for that? I thought inellectual ventures got most of its income by suing (either directly or indirectly through another company) and scaring the other side into an expensive settlement followed by license payments from then on. It's not like a warehouse where people come looking for neat ideas.

Re:In defense of Patent Trolls (1)

Dereck1701 (1922824) | about two weeks ago | (#47831789)

Theres no one source for the information, but below are a few links to some of it. They have apparently made about $6 Billion in revenue since their inception and in 2010 at least they made $700 Million in licensing fees. I did include their "investments" along with what I could call "licensing fees" because they seem to be effectively the same thing. A good chunk of their revenue is via "Patent Funds" where they offer companies a chance to join in to buy a block of patents, apparently with a thinly veiled threat that if they don't buy in IV will sue them if any of the patents in the block apply to prospective investors.

http://www.businessinsider.com... [businessinsider.com]
http://www.businessweek.com/ar... [businessweek.com]
http://www.cnet.com/news/insid... [cnet.com]
https://news.yahoo.com/exclusi... [yahoo.com]

Re:In defense of Patent Trolls (1)

amaurea (2900163) | about two weeks ago | (#47832995)

Thansk for the well-researched reply. The sources all back up your numbers (though the cnet one was very long). But one thing that isn't clear to me is what fraction of that licensing income that come as a result of a lawsuit or settlement, and what fraction was voluntary. As I said, I thought htat most people who paid licensing fees to Intellectual Ventures did so because they were sued.

I agree that much of the investment in their patent pool could count as licensing fees, since people join it for fear of being sued otherwise. But the original large investments that originally formed the company were different.

Re:In defense of Patent Trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47830031)

>I will grant that there have been some absurd patent cases ltigated by patent trolls, but that's a separate issue.

That "separate issue" is the only issue. The one you've chosen to ignore when trying to use the patent system to defend the same companies abusing the shit out of the patent system.

No one hates companies that protect their IP. Trolls earned their reputation by enforcing ridiculously vague concepts. They attack "the little guys..." all the time with smaller cash settlement offers while their big-boy legal department threatens to rape their company out of existence if they don't pay up.

Blaming the patent office for what companies are doing to abuse patents is like blaming guns for murder while ignoring the damned criminal. It's very... liberal thinking, really. Always blame someone else.

Re:In defense of Patent Trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47830133)

No, these aren't separate issues. You can say patent trolls are not the core problem, and I'll agree. Patent trolls aren't the problem, they are a symptom. They're doing what American Companies do best: See opportunities and exploit them, come hell or high water. They're exploiting the exploitable, opportunists making good use of an opportunity.

The underlying, unifying issue is that the patent system is broken. "Defending" trolls, like you do here, as fixes for this broken system, implies that you agree with the system as it stands. That is where I violently disagree.

I think we would be better off without any patents whatsoever, just void'em overnight, worthless now, so sorry, than we will be with the current system and patent troll parasites to "help" small fry survive against the big bad dinosaurs. Afterward we can take a gander and see if any sort of patent system redone from the ground up and taking original principles into account would help more than it would hinder.

But before that, we really do need to clean up the mess first. For what a veritable mess the USPTO has made of things by just granting everything in sight "and let the courts sort it out". Meaning that the patent vehicle is now the deep-pocketed company's toy. Quite the opposite from its original goal, not so? But even patent trolls cannot begin to fix that. The patent war chests are way too well stocked.

Re: In defense of Patent Trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47831043)

In a world where only innovative patents, on actual objects that cost money to produce as opposed to design, and with reasonable licensing terms existed, something resembling a patent troll might be justified to exist.
And yet I suspect that in such a marshmallow world there would be no need to protect inventors.
So fuck you patent trolls.

Re:In defense of Patent Trolls (3, Insightful)

MattGWU (86623) | about two weeks ago | (#47830203)

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'.

Re:In defense of Patent Trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47830487)

You do the obvious: approach the existing car companies about licensing.

I thought the obvious was to sit around until someone else comes up with the same idea, it catches on like wildfire, then retain a high-rolling lawyer to start sending out letters 1 year before your patent expires.

Your way seems like a lot of hard work, and like the mosquito blasting laser, people might decide they don't need an intermittent wiper if they have to pay you for it.

Re:In defense of Patent Trolls (1)

DaMattster (977781) | about two weeks ago | (#47830625)

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.

Re:In defense of Patent Trolls (1)

amaurea (2900163) | about two weeks ago | (#47831021)

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 invention before, it is not clear that there isn't some overlap between our inventions. Our lawyer tells us that we cannot be sure to win, and that the cost of fighting this in court would bankrupt us. So we settle with the patent troll. They only want slightly less than what would kill us.

At the same time, the patent extortionist is using the patent to sue several others who came up with similar-sounding ideas. It's not that the patent extortionist is trying to discourage innovation as such - that's just an unfortunate but acceptable side-effect of its business model. Only people who pay it can be allowed to implement, and thankfully many are willing to give it more ammunition for a quick buck.

So to summarize: People who have a good idea but can't be bothered to turn it into a physical product patent it and sell the patent to a patent troll. It then waits for somebody who actually does invest in their own invention, and then uses the patent to extort them. This is how patent trolls usually work. It is very uncommon for somebody to go looking for a patent that solves some problem, find it in a patent database, and then pay for the privilege of using it. Instead, they come up with a solution on their own, use it to start a successful business, and then are ambushed by a patent they never even heard about.

This de-incentivizes people from going further than the idea step with an invention. When most patent infringements are accidental, it says something about how trivial the patent was in the first place. They are too broad, are granted too easily, and it is too expensive to determine the merit of a patent, and what infringes. It is bad enough that normal companies have them, but at least they have scruples in using them. Patent extortionists have no such inhibitions.

As a closing note: There is, as far as I know, no evidence that patents increase innovation. When patent power is increasd, the rate of innovation does not go up. Similarly, when patents are introduced to a new field where patents were previously not allowed (such as software quite recently), the rate of innovation does not go up. Empirical evidence is not on the side of the patent system. It was well meant, but negative second-order effects turned out to be more important than the positive immediate effects.

Re:In defense of Patent Trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47832683)

You are assuming that you deserve money for inventing something and sitting on it. An invention that's not developed and does not significantly further the state of the art is about as useful as an imaginary invention.

IV needs an IV(as in intravenous) (1)

rutabagaman (120913) | about two weeks ago | (#47830991)

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.

"products" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47831045)

Well they are turning the patents into ideas, and reselling others products. wow.

They're only trying to put on a face of "production" so they can continue their litigation train..

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