One example, according to patent attorneys and other experts, is Intellectual Ventures (IV) -- a patent-licensing firm founded in 1999 by former Microsoft executives Nathan Myhrvold and Ed Jung, among others. According to a court document (PDF) that IV filed in April 2011 and then fought to keep secret (PDF), IV investors include Adobe Systems, Apple Inc., Cisco Systems, eBay Inc., Google, Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., Nokia, Nvidia International Holdings, SAP America Inc., Sony Corp., Verizon and Xilinx, Inc.
Each of these tech companies made a financial investment in IV; all except Google and Adobe went for more than one round of funding. IV has raised at least $5 billion from investors, including tech firms.
The practice of tech vendors and other entities funding PAEs is common but relatively unpublicized, in part because at least one major aggregator goes to great lengths to keep its dealings private. One tactic is the practice of creating over a thousand companies that have different legal names and no obvious link to the aggregator that created them. (See sidebar, below.)
Tech investors in Intellectual Ventures
Source: Lawsuit filed on May 16, 2011: Xilinx vs Intellectual Ventures Investment Fund I, L.P. et al (PDF)
All the technology companies named as IV investors were contacted multiple times for this story; none except Verizon would comment for attribution. Nor would IV comment on the record about its Who's Who list of investors, which also includes universities and charitable foundations.
Nat Goldhaber, managing director of the venture firm Claremont Creek Ventures, explains that "all these companies are using Intellectual Ventures as a patent pool to avoid suit and [have the ability to] cross-license" the patents in the pool.
In January, attorney Ewing and Robin Feldman, a professor at the University of California's Hastings College of Law, published a comprehensive report in the Stanford Technology Law Review that among other things detailed the intricate linkages between some technology vendors and PAEs.