Intellectual Ventures, if you believe the Wall Street Journal, is striking fear in the hearts of tech CEOs with its vast portfolio of patents. Former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold set up the fund to buy up patents and then extract licensing fees from companies. He has extracted fees as high as $350 million from the likes of Verizon, the Journal reports. Myhrvold often coopts his targets by striking deals to have them invest in his fund. Buried in a transcript accompanying the scare piece is a telltale fact, though, which calls into question whether Myhrvold is as smart as all the tech reporters think he is.To date, he has raised $5 billion, but only brought in $1 billion. Myhrvold has gotten everyone from the Journal to BusinessWeek to the New Yorker to write about his big, scary patent operation. Have any of those credulous journalists stopped to ask if Myhrvold might be a better publicist than a businessman? By Myhrvold's own admission, Intellectual Ventures is an operation which thrives by constantly extracting money from new investors. Perhaps Myhrvold should take out a patent on the Ponzi scheme.
Tired of fielding lawsuits from patent trolls and scared of court injunctions like that faced by RIM which nearly shut down the company's BlackBerry service, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, Verizon and Ericsson are among the companies rumored to be behind the formation of the Allied Security Trust. Ponying up $250,000 down payments and $5 million in escrow to make purchases, the trust seeks to buy patents before they fall into the hands of patent trolls. (That's the polite name the group's founders use for companies which seek to make money litigating infringers rather than by create products.) But the real bogeyman here is the rise of a possible patent troll to rule all patent trolls, Intellectual Ventures, which has close ties to Microsoft.