Bonum Certa Men Certa

On Intellectual Ventures, Nathan Myhrvold, and Other Patent Trolls

Trolls abound, system abused. OIN to the rescue?

A month ago we mentioned a patent troll bigger than Acacia, which had just been identified. The Microsoft connections to Acacia's are too hard to dismiss [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9] and the following troll-to-be is no exception.

In two consecutive days, The Wall Street Journal presented two different answers. The first is not surprising: Intellectual Ventures, the brainchild of ex-Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold. It's now out "to raise as much as $1 billion to help develop and patent inventions, many of them from universities in Asia."


It is curious that universities outside the US are mentioned. Japan seems to have accepted software patents, but it is one among very few countries to be on that boat (probably the only one in Asia). Mexico has always been edgy. Groklaw discovered a very interesting newsletter from last year and it speaks about the Mexican patent legislation.

Besides, CAFTA also requires the acceptance of any patents granted by the US Patent Office, including patents on ideas applied to software, mathematical algorithms, living matter and so on, and extends the copyright monopoly to at least 70 years past the death of the author.

An interesting topic to review regarding FTAs [Free Trade Agreements] is how, in several cases, signing such an agreement places the legal norms in a country in check. For example, in Mexico today there is an important confusion regarding software patents that did not exist before the FTA: Mexican patent legislation explicitly states that computer programs are not patentable (just like corresponding legislation in Argentina and Brazil). Nevertheless, the Mexican Patent Office has been granting software patents, in accordance with the FTA with USA, which brings a major uncertainty to the Mexican community.


There is a coordinated attempt to successfully push for similar confusion and mess in other countries [1, 2, 3]. There is heavy lobbying involved and some software patents actually 'trickle' through the European legal system. Consider Britain With new laws established, scaring businesses outside the United States, for example, would be easier. Remember accusations of a 'patent terrorism' culture. It's all about fear (perception).

Related articles to consider:

What if this ever become global phenomenon?

Microsoft's appointed 'patent terrorist' recently quit his role in the company. This came just a year after Martin Taylor, the man behind the "Get the Facts" propaganda, escaped the company abruptly (and without even giving a reason).

Upon Bill Hilf's departure from his position, let's recall some of his 'greatest hits'.

Here is what he said about ODF/OOXML (article pulled after a long time, probably because of Microsoft's pressure, which Hilf himself talked about at the time).

Hilf accused his former employers, IBM, of starting a standards war simply because they wanted a part of the Office market


Does Hilf endorse the OOXML frauds that we still see? Does he approve sabotaging the typically-peaceful process of standards body in order to pass proprietary formats as though they were 'open'?

Hilf did not shy away from the cameras when Microsoft attacked GNU/Linux and OpenOffice.org with baseless FUD and accusations. Among the things he said at the time:

"We would like to strike similar patent deals with all the Linux vendors, but we had to start somewhere," said Bill Hilf.


No Patents in Linux



He then wondered why people hated him.

Hilf’s response was... priceless. “I get a lot of e-mail.” “People like to subscribe me to crazy newsletters and spam.”


Hilf is no longer at that position which he held. All I can personally say is: good riddance. Remember the article from the Bangkok Post (article pulled):

"The Free Software movement is dead. Linux doesn't exist in 2007. Even Linus has got a job today." Controversial statements from the head of Microsoft's Linux Labs, Bill Hilf.


”OIN is intended to make the whole broken patent system collapse, as it should.“A regular reader of this site, having read some articles on the assorted patent trolls [1, 2, 3], wrote to inform us about a techdirt.com article. The article discusses Intellectual Ventures, on which he has commented. Since IANAL (neither is he, I assume), we wish to know whether organisations like OIN (Open Innovation Network) can use the method he has described to protect GNU/Linux entities from patent trolls such as Intellectual Ventures.

My own answer is that it's interesting scenario. Can OIN ever be counter-sued at all? Therein lies the strength of patent trolls which have patents but no actual products. They are like an amorphous malicious spirit. You can't take a swing at them because there is no physical entity (product).

A friend recently told me about an idea which OIN supporters have in mind. OIN is intended to make the whole broken patent system collapse, as it should. Patent trolls don't want it to collapse. OIN, on the other hand, wants patent trolling to end. If shattering the system is the means, then so be it. It renders the system obsolete and pointless.

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