Why tech vendors fund patent 'trolls'

Experts say it's about protection from lawsuits and access to a large pool of patents

By Gina Smith, Computerworld |  IT Management

IV's Myhrvold declined to comment for this story. But in a March 2010 Harvard Business Review article that Myhrvold wrote , he said, "My company, Intellectual Ventures, is misunderstood. We have been reviled as a patent troll, a renegade outfit that buys up patents and then uses them to hold up innocent companies.

"What we're really trying to do is to create a capital market that supports startups and the private equity market that revitalizes inefficient companies. Our goal is to make applied research a profitable activity that attracts vastly more private investment than it does today so that the number of inventions soars."

Further, some might not consider IV a 'pure-play' PAE; it has invented at least one product it's disclosed publicly: a laser-based bug zapper created with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help fight malaria.

Google: In, then out

Google , also, refused to comment about multiple sources and public documents showing that it invested money (PDF) in one of the companies related to the fund known as the Invention Investment Fund I.

A highly placed source close to Google confirmed that Google did originally invest in IV as a member, but only once. There has since been a bitter parting of ways, that source says. "As soon as they started suing people," Google "wanted out," the source says.

Google initially joined because it wanted to have access to a broad number of patents, but it later decided not to associate with a company that turned out to be mostly about lawsuits, he says. Two other sources close to or inside Google have corroborated this account.

Were the Wright brothers the first patent trolls?

The Wright brothers are esteemed for their invention of a flying craft. But they might also go down in history for being among the earliest people to sue over patent issues.

In 1903, they patented a technique of side-to-side wing control they never built themselves. The design was, according to NASA historians , a "wing warping" technique of lateral control in which the wings were actually twisted in opposite directions to create a differential lifting force that would keep an airplane afloat.


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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