Nathan Myhrvold, founder of Intellectual Ventures LLC, has
acquired more than 20,000 patents from universities, bankrupt
corporations and independent inventors. The patents cover a wide
variety of technologies ranging from lasers to computer chips.
Myhrvold is considered a patent troll because he is the largest
owner of intellectual property in the US and has put together the
most expensive patent-licensing deals ever made. Recently, he
strong-armed individual corporations into agreeing to payments
between $200 million and $400 million.
Yet, unlike most patent trolls, Myhrvold hasn’t filed an infringement claim against a company since Intellectual Ventures
began in 2000. Instead, he uses his stature to force businesses like
Verizon Communications, Cisco Systems, Sony, Nokia, Microsoft
and others into paying royalties so they won’t be sued.
“Corporations … want to
avoid an expensive
for valuable patents …”
However, obtaining patent rights from Myhrvold does not necessarily protect a licensee completely from infringement. If only a
limited set of patents are bought, or if they’re only licensed for a
short time and not renewed promptly, expanding on them could
still result in litigation.
RPX Corp. of San Francisco is a business founded in March
2008 to protect intellectual property from patent trolls. Labeling
itself a “defensive patent aggregator,” the company buys patents
to keep trolls from obtaining them solely for the purpose of lawsuits and royalty fees. RPX vows never to assert a member’s
Companies pay a fixed annual membership fee ranging from
$35,000 to $4.9 million, based on their operating incomes, and
they’re given full rights to all of RPX’s patents, regardless of
value. However, RPX chooses which intellectual properties to
buy without consulting its members. Currently the company,
backed by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Charles River
Ventures, owns more than 150 US patents and more than 60 US
applications in areas of mobile technology, the Internet, radiofrequency identification and digital media. So far, the company
has invested more than $40 million.
Another NPE opponent is Allied Security Trust (AST) of
Poughkeepsie, N. Y. The company’s members include Verizon
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