Intellectual Ventures, the patent holding company started by the former CTO of Microsoft, Nathan Myhrvold, has begun obtaining payments from licensees in the $200 million to $400 million range, according to a recent front-page Wall Street Journal article (Tech Guru Riles the Industry by Seeking Huge Patent Fees, by Amol Sharma and Don Clark, September 17, 2008).
In an interesting twist, many of the licensees also agree to become investors in investment funds operated by Mr. Myhrvold’s company. The Journal reports that the company has not filed any infringement lawsuits yet against potential licensees — although this remains an “implicit threat” — but Myhrvold told the Journal that $1 billion in licensing fees have been returned to investors so far. (This profitability apparently isn’t widely spread among other patent holding companies. The Journal also reported that publicly-held Acacia Research Corp, which has several pending lawsuits against licensees, reported a net loss of $9.5 million in the first half of 2008.)
IV also announced plans to open offices in five Asian countries, including a new regional headquarters is in Singapore.
For an inside look at Intellectual Ventures, be sure to read Malcolm Gladwell’s recent profile in The New Yorker.