After a decade of stockpiling thousands of patents and using them to force huge payments privately from alleged infringers, Intellectual Ventures went public this week and filed infringement cases against nine large high technology companies.
Intellectual Ventures, co-founded by Microsoft's former chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold, said Wednesday that it has "enforced its rights and filed patent infringement complaints" against companies in three areas: the software security industry, the DRAM and flash memory industry, and the field-programmable gate array (FPGA) industry.
"Over the years, Intellectual Ventures has successfully negotiated license agreements with some of the top technology companies in the world," said Mellissa A. Finocchio, the firm's chief litigation counsel, in a statement. "However, some companies have chosen to ignore our requests for good faith negotiations and discussions. Protecting our invention rights through these actions is the right choice for our investors, inventors, and current licensees."
The litigation was filed in US District Court of Delaware. The company's counsel in all three actions is Joe Farnan of Farnan Law, LLP and each of the three groups will have its own lead attorney representing Intellectual Ventures.
Complaints in the software security industry were filed against Check Point Software Technologies, McAfee, Symantec, and Trend Micro. In the DRAM and flash memory segment, the companies targeted are Elpida Memory and Hynix Semiconductor. FPGA industry companies named in the complaints are Altera, Lattice Semiconductor, and Microsemi. Intellectual Ventures indicated that the complaint against Microsemi may be based on that firm's acquisition of Actel its FPGA business.
Intellectual Ventures was co-founded in 2000 by Myhrvold and is based in Bellevue, WA. The company states that it is "the global leader in the business of invention (and) collaborates with leading inventors, partners with pioneering companies, and invests both expertise and capital in the process of invention." It adds that its "mission is to energize and streamline an invention economy that will drive innovation around the world."
Others have described Intellectual Ventures as a "patent troll," buying up patents for low prices and extracting larger sums of money from companies. Patent infringement cases can generate huge payoffs. For instance, Research In Motion, which provides the popular BlackBerry mobile phone, has paid out more than $1 billion in patent litigation including more than $600 million to one law firm in one case.