Patent collecting company Intellectual Ventures, which was started by former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, has filed patent lawsuits against nine companies.
Intellectual Ventures (IV) filed patent infringement cases against companies in three industries which include software security, DRAM and Flash memory and FGPA industry.
The companies sued under software security industry include McAfee, Symantec Corporation, Trend Micro and Check Point Software. Under the memory industry it has targeted South Korean firm Hynix Semiconductor and Japanese outfit Elpida Memory. While in the FGPA industry the companies under scanner are Altera Corporation, Lattice Semiconductor and Microsemi Corporation.
The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of Delaware cites that Intellectual Ventures has accumulated more than 30,000 patents and has earned nearly $2 billion by licensing these patents.
The lawsuits filed by IV smack of patent troll like ambitions. Patent trolls are companies that acquire patents not to manufacture products but primarily to gain licensing fees and royalties. Companies involved in using patents to manufacture products usually exercise patent rights to seek a permanent injunction to protect their market share unlike patent trolls that seek royalties.
However, IV states that the company creates its own inventions and has a staff of scientists and engineers. It explains its business model as IV purchasing important inventions from individual inventors and institutions and then licensing the inventions to those who need them.
The Bellevue, Washington-based Intellectual Ventures was founded in 2000. At the center of the patent troll controversy is the founder and CEO of the company Nathan Myhrvold. As reported by Fortune in 2006 Myhrvold is a polymath with a master's in geophysics and space physics from UCLA, a Ph.D. in theoretical and mathematical physics, and a master's in mathematical economics from Princeton, besides also being a paleontologist, a prize-winning photographer, and a gourmet chef. He had stated his ambition about the company: We want to build a portfolio just like those companies have, with licensing approaches broadly like they have ... I want to achieve what IBM has achieved. That's my financial model. This is a play where I take portfolio theory and apply it to something illiquid to deliver a return for my investors. I don't see that as evil. I don't see that as particularly threatening.
Last month HTC and Samsung entered into a partnership with IV to use over 30,000 software patents. Currently the smartphone industry has seen a barrage of patent lawsuits filed by smartphone makers. Prominent cases include Apple's lawsuit against HTC, Microsoft's case against Motorola and Oracle's lawsuit against Google's Android Dalvik virtual machine.
Also WSJ reported that around 10 percent of the company staff are lawyers.