Nathan Myhrvold Versus The New York Times

"We're just an innocent little start-up with $5 billion to spend."
Many have speculated, ourselves included, about the intentions and financial performance of Nathan Myhrvold's Bellevue intellectual property investment fund/invention lab, called Intellectual Ventures. Now The New York Times has come out with an account including some damning allegations. For one, "Detractors see a cynical operator deploying his bulging patent trove as a powerful bargaining chip, along with the implied threat of costly litigation, to prod high-tech companies to pay him lucrative fees."

A former Microsoft honcho, Myhrvold is no dummy, and he's not averse to mixing it up in the media. He's gotten good press for zapping mosquitoes, trying to offset global warming, and doing

weird stuff with food. He surely knew the NYT story, written by Steve Lohr, was coming. So he got out in front of the news cycle by writing his own story in the Harvard Business Review.

Let's compare the two accounts...

NYT: Intellectual Ventures is buying up ideas and suing anyone who touches them.

Myhrvold: "We have been reviled as a patent troll."

NYT: Intellectual Ventures is big ($5 billion in capital) and secretive.

Myhrvold: We're really just a small, entrepreneurial software company, one that's standing up to big, bad companies like IBM.

NYT: You're actually in bed with Verizon, Intel, Nokia, Sony, and Amazon.

Myhrvold: Our lawyers might've talked with them about certain technologies they're using--technologies we own.

NYT: Intellectual Ventures is rigging the patent-acquisition game by buying them up with over 1,000 shell companies.

Myhrvold: Nonsense. The goal is to "turbocharge technological progress, create many more new businesses, and change the world for the better."

NYT: Intellectual Ventures uses an army of lawyers to intimidate patent users into paying exorbitant patent-use license fees.

Myhrvold: Hey, like I said, we're just another software company.

NYT: "Mr. Myhrvold personifies the term polymath."

Myhrvold: I cannot dispute that assertion.

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