Bonum Certa Men Certa

Microsoft's Patent Troll and Taxman Intellectual Ventures Gets Indirectly Closer to Google (Android/ChromeOS Steward) and to Linux

Nathan MyhrvoldSummary: The world's largest patent troll, composed of literally thousands of shells having been created by Microsoft with significant help from Bill Gates, is widening its reach to to the Google-backed Yieldify and TiVo (through Rovi)

NOBODY denies the fact that Intellectual Ventures (IV) is a patent troll, as per the definition of the term, and also the world's largest one. It's closely connected both to Microsoft and to Bill Gates (at a personal level/capacity), so we pay careful attention to it. We recently criticised IAM for grooming IV and now, based on a rare weekend update, IV speaks to IAM. As the editor put it: "Subsequent to the article’s publication, IV co-founder Peter Detkin got in touch with myself and Kent Richardson to comment on some of what it said; Kent then responded. Both have given me permission to publish their correspondence (note that this has been edited into IAM house style - so, for example, original US spellings have been turned into British English – but there no substantive changes were made)."



We understand why IAM entertains patent trolls' marketing. IAM is, after all, partly funded by patent trolls, for whom it organises reputation-laundering events. It's thus not hard to see why IV might view IAM as an ally rather than a suspicious or critical foe. There's a sort of back-rubbing there.

Google came under fire some days ago because a company it backed has hooked up with IV. The Register's most trollish pundit, who habitually comments in IP Kat since weeks ago, said this (under the words "Um, Google… I thought you hated patent trolls?"):

Yieldify, the Google-backed startup accused of stealing code from British adtech company Bounce Exchange, has been making some unusual friends.

Yieldify has acquired an ancient web patent from III Holdings which was first filed in 2007. III Holdings is better known as Inside Intellectual Ventures, co-founded by Nathan Myhrvold. It has been dubbed “the most hated company in tech” and “the world's biggest patent troll.”

IIV is a “NPE” (non-practicising entity), which gathers up patents and seeks to unlock their value through selling on or licensing the IP. This has been backed up by litigation, such as Samsung, a recipient of one of III’s sueballs.

In a court filing made last week, Yieldify made a request for declaratory judgement in its ongoing case versus Bounce Exchange, citing the IIV patent. This is a request for the case to be thrown out. The complaint also uses the patent in question to lodge an infringement claim against Bounce Exchange.



Here is another report about this, which correctly notes:

The patent wasn't originally Yieldify's, though. Yieldify has purchased the patent from Intellectual Ventures in order to open up a new front in its battle with Bounce Exchange. It was first submitted for approval to the US Patent and Trademark Office back in 2005 by Intellectual Ventures (IV), an organisation that CNET once described as "the most hated company in tech."


There is a little more IV in the mix and it directly impacts Linux because DRM proponent and Linux kernel troublemaker (TiVo) reportedly gets together with a friend of patent trolls like Intellectual Ventures. As a patent maximalist's site put it the other day: "Whether Rovi uses that war chest to attack competition (which becomes harder or easier as the anti-software patent pendulum continues to swing), or to further refine the Bolt and Rovi’s own media guides or both – the acquisition does spell positive for both companies and their stakeholders."

One must remember that any proximity/link between IV and Linux can help Microsoft tax Linux using patents from thousands of different directions (IV has literally thousands of shells or satellites). A lot of patent trolls attack legitimate companies down in Texas and it's hard to tell who they work on behalf of.

Vice has this new sort of 'expose' about Rodney Gilstrap, who was mentioned here before, e.g. in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. He is the patent trolls' best friend at the court and to quote portions of this rather damning report:

The Small Town Judge Who Sees a Quarter of the Nation’s Patent Cases



[...]

The first thing people tell you about Judge Rodney Gilstrap is that he’s not from Marshall. In the small Texas city (population 24,000) east of Dallas where he presides as a US district court judge, where you’re from matters, and the 59-year-old Gilstrap was actually born in Pensacola, Florida. But because he earned both his BA and his law degree at Baylor University (three hours away in Waco, Texas), has practiced law in Marshall since the 80s, and married a local girl whose family owns the town funeral home, most folks forgive Gilstrap this blight.

[...]

Since taking the bench in 2011—moving literally across the street from his law office into the district courthouse—Gilstrap has become one of the most influential patent litigation judges in the country. In 2015, there were 5,819 new patent cases filed in the US; 1,686 of those ended up in front of Judge Gilstrap. That’s more than a quarter of all cases in the country; twice as many as the next most active patent judge.


Patent trolls are truly an epidemic, but they rely on software patents and corrupt courts (or states that harbour patent trolls for profit, much like tax havens that welcome tax evaders). What's also crucial for everyone to remember is that many patent trolls work at the behest of some corporation lurking in the shadow, targeting its competition to drive prices higher or drive the competition out of the market. Intellectual Ventures already attacks Linux in various ways (from many directions), as we showed here before.

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