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Intellectual Ventures: Friend or Foe?

While some companies, like Google, are working hard to fight the reign of patent trolls, others are continuing to push for higher patent numbers and litigation.

Intellectual Ventures – often deemed the world’s largest patent troll – has been at it for years, privately backed by one of the world’s richest men – Bill Gates. Initially founded in 2000 by Microsoft exec Nathan Myhrvold, Intellectual Ventures has built up a portfolio of over 70,000 patents, 40,000 of which are “in active monetization programs.”

These “active monetization programs” are what require other companies to pay for licenses in order to use the patented technology without being sued. Though Intellectual Ventures doesn’t make any actual products of its own, Gates and others have participated in regular brainstorming sessions responsible for several patent applications.

Over the years, IV has become a nightmare for aspiring entrepreneurs and tech companies of all sizes, though the company continues to argue it’s not the monster that everyone makes it out to be. In fact, Intellectual Ventures has claimed that its “think tank” structure is often responsible for innovative ways to solve big problems.

In a CNET investigation of the company last year, Intellectual Ventures employees claimed that they’re working toward a concept called “invention capital,”where their company makes money from “requests for inventions” that are sent out to a number of scientists and inventors around the world. In a way, they’re trying to get inventors their “fair share.”

Lawsuits are inevitable to some extent when dealing with inventions and patented technology, but patent trolls are currently being mauled for their constant appearance in court. The number of suits filed by patent trolls has skyrocketed in recent years, and Intellectual Ventures is a name that’s frequently linked to unnecessary litigation.

With that in mind, it may be harder than the company would like for it to turn its nasty public image around, but maybe someday they really will blossom into the pioneering company in support of inventors everywhere that it claims to be.