Former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold is either the biggest patent troll on the planet or a business visionary who is creating a new investment vehicle. His fund Intellectual Ventures is buying up and generating thousands of patents, which he eventually hopes to license to other companies. Nothing wrong with that, especially if Myhrvold can help bring to market inventions that would otherwise never see the light of day.
But not everyone is convinced that his motives are so benign. Fortune quotes HP's patent chief Joe Beyers and strategy officer Shane Robison to the contrary:
Joe Beyers, who oversees HP's patents, dismisses IV's invention plans as a "smokescreen to buy time." The real game will be lawsuits, he says.
"We're very familiar with their business model," adds HP's Robison, explaining that Intellectual Ventures approached HP as a potential investor. Robison says he can't say any more than that because he's bound by a nondisclosure agreement. But why, he suggests, would Myhrvold collect all those patents if he weren't planning to start suing eventually?
From a financial perspective, if you are going to build up a patent portfolio you can probably make more money by threatening lawsuits than by actually creating new products. But Myhrvold has yet to file a single lawsuit. And it's not like he needs the money. It's too early to tell whether he is a patent troll or a patent innovator (or whether there is any real difference between the two), but history will judge his contributions based on what he does with all those patents and whether they ever turn into actual, useful products.