World's Richest Invention Company Has Not Commercialized A Single Product In 10 Years.

August 27, 2010 - Nathan Myhrvold, the former Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft, is certifiably brilliant and undeniably rich. Ten years ago he founded an invention company called Intellectual Ventures. The home page of IV's website makes a big fat claim:

"Intellectual Ventures is the global leader in the business of invention. We collaborate with leading inventors, partner with pioneering companies, and invest both expertise and capital in the process of invention. Our mission is to energize and streamline an invention economy that will drive innovation around the world."

So I was surprised, to say the least, when I read a glowing review of the company by Matt Buchanan in Gizmodo that said...

"In the 10 years that IV’s been in existence, though, nothing’s evolved into the product phase."

Come again? All those smart people, all those resources, all those contacts and nothing in 10 years has made it from idea phase to a shelf at Wal-Mart or a page at or an engine in a Toyota, or a water filtration plant in Zimbabwe? Nada? Zip? Bupkas?

What have those people at Intellectual Ventures been doing for ten years? Mostly buying up patents and using them to sue companies into paying royalties. The impolite term for this practice is "patent troll." One would think this practice would be highly profitable. Jerome Lemelson pioneered this method of profiting from inventions suing countless companies with his 600 patents and earned hundreds of millions of dollars. But, according to Erick Schonfeld at Tech Crunch, IV had a negative 73% return.

Fortunately for independent inventors, there is little correlation between being well funded and success.

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