Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft’s first chief technology officer, has a plan for Intellectual Property. First he gathers leading scientists and patent attorneys to brainstorm and come up with ideas that his company, Intellectual Ventures, can license to others. They plan to produce nothing but patents. You know what comes next.
The company also offers to “immunize” corporations from patent suits for a $50 million fee. The company will go around and buy patents before other patent trolls do, thereby “protecting” the clients. Others, of course, will have to face the consequences of not having ponied up the $50 million.
Does the word “blackmail” have any relevance here?
An excellent question! I found the phrase “culture of infringement” particularly chilling. Companies in the software industry don’t infringe because they’re uninterested in doing the right thing. They infringe because they realize that finding and paying off everyone who holds a patent that describes something they could do is logistically impossible. “Ending the culture of infringement” in the software industry means ending the freedom to develop software without spending tens of thousands of dollars on legal advice first.
Which, in practice, means limiting the software industry to a handful of large companies staffed mostly with lawyers. Hey, come to think of it, that sounds a lot like Intellectual Ventures!