What Nathan did next
Nathan Myhrvold used to be Microsoft’s Chief Technologist. Now he’s spending more time with his money. But he’s also set up a secretive new company, Intellectual Ventures Inc., which doesn’t actually make anything. It simply generates patent applications and buys patents from all over the place. The idea is to harness the insanity of the emerging patent regime — to ensure that, one day, nobody will ever be able to start up a company without first paying some royalties to Nathan or his investors and clients. There’s a fascinating Newsweek piece about this here.
Larry Lessig found a nice quote from Bill Gates about all this in Fred Warshofsky’s book, The Patent Wars. This is what Gates said in 1991:
“If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today. The solution . . . is patent exchanges . . . and patenting as much as we can. . . . A future start-up with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose. That price might be high: established companies have an interest in excluding future competitors.”
Update: [28 November]: Rats! Just discovered that Quentin had spotted this before me!