This American Life: When Patents Attack

Fantastic hour-long exposé on Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures, which comes out looking like the root of all evil in the U.S. software patent protection racket. Lodsys, of course, is one of their shell company fronts.

Kudos to Chris Sacca for having the stones to go on the record, calling Intellectual Ventures out for what it really is:

A mafia style shakedown, where someone comes in the front door of your building and says, “It would be a shame if this place burnt down. I know the neighborhood really well and I can make sure that doesn’t happen.” And saying, “Pay us up.” Now here’s, here’s what’s funny. If you talk to … when I’ve seen Nathan speak publicly about this and when I’ve seen spokespeople from Intellectual Ventures, they constantly remind us that they themselves don’t bring lawsuits, that they themselves are not litigators, that they’re a defensive player. But the truth is that the threat of their patent arsenal can’t actually be realized, that it can’t be taken seriously unless they have that offensive posture, unless they’re willing to assert those patents. And so it’s this very delicate balancing act that is quite reminiscent of scenes you see in movies when the mafia comes to visit your butcher shop and they say to you, “Hey, it would be a real shame if somebody else came and sued you. Tell you what, pay us an exorbitant membership fee into our collective and we’ll keep you protected that way.” A protection scheme isn’t that credible unless some butcher shops burn down now and then.

Monday, 25 July 2011