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Nathan Myhrvold, Myth Buster (1843magazine.com)
27 points by jamesknelson 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 21 comments



Lest anyone be taken in by this:

Myhrvold, and his outfit Intellectual Ventures, was/is one of the most egregious patent trolls of the lot. Their business model relies on victims being scared off and settling out of court. Courts, and IV's harassment targets, are beginning to become wise to this and their claims are being taken to court and thrown out - effectively breaking IV's business model. This has all been chronicled ad nauseam on HN. So perhaps, realizing this, we're now getting a flurry of puff-pieces to re-write the story ahead of them having to figure out how to make an honest living.

No amount of PR lipstick should redeem this particular pig.


Indeed. It prompts one to wonder how many Economist "executive seminars" and "innovation summits" IV have attended and/or sponsored...

In the author Renton's possible defense, he seems mostly to be a food writer. Perhaps no regular tech writer could schedule an interview?


Nathan doesn't want to be approached by tech writers because he knows he'll get bludgeoned by them.

He was on ABC's "Nightline" eight years ago, and he sharply pivoted when his "slice of life" story turned into a softball question about the nature of his real business: Patent trolling. I'll see if I can't find a video of it.


But they do paint thick with that lipstick, so you barely notice how he claims to have invented embrace-extend-extinguish, or his boasting of killing off Netscape.


While what IV has done/is doing is detestable, I think its kind of cool that an individual inventor can simply sell them an idea for money. This may have been the original idea behind IV, but they probably failed to generate any sales revenue without resorting to lawsuits. I do believe that once you hire lawyers, their focus will be to keep themselves employed and find somebody to sue.


From the article:

"Myhrvold and Microsoft are rank hypocrites, one inventor who has sold patents to them told me. (He declined to be named.) His point was that Microsoft in its tiger years complained about the dead hand of intellectual-property law, and the costly enforcement process, but now it acquires and exploits patents to protect its monopolies."


Not sure what point you're making. I read the article too.


At least one inventor doesn't seem thrilled with the result of selling them his patents.


Okay, I don't understand the point of highlighting something without explaining why. Could you explain what role that data point plays given that they hold over 90,000 patents?


The article touches on this. I think it's an interesting article. Regardless of what you think of IV's business practices, Myhrvold has had a fascinating life.


A more common frame is Nathan Myhrvold, Patent Troll - https://psmag.com/magazine/a-patent-boogieman-with-the-poten...



It always bugged me that Myrhvold could be such a negative force in tech while doing so many cool things with e.g. food and dinoasaurs. This article really helped connect the dots: he's the original idea guy, with so many good ideas that quite a few can succeed despite a lack of interest in "connecting ideas with reality".

The frustrating part is when a government-granted monopoly makes that kind of ideating (including about who else's ideas to purchase) so much more profitable than executing. Maybe both are honest work, but the state of patent law puts gives so much more power to the person imagining things than the person making them work, it's crazy.


> It always bugged me that Myrhvold could be such a negative force in tech while doing so many cool things with e.g. food and dinoasaurs.

Why? You can be an asshole and be interested in things.

It's one of the big issues of modern western and especially US media to paint people uniformly, it makes detecting evil so much harder because mass media does not prepare citizens for the fact that yes, somebody can be an unrepentant criminal and like Buffy, or a corporate/SI stooge and listen to ska, or a neo nazi who DMs Honey Heist or Big Gay Orcs.


Very much agree with this and well said! And the article plays into that, by acknowledging controversy but trying to sweep it into a single playful persona.

My confusion about NM was a bit more specific: intellectual Ventures seems at first glance to specifically disrespect the process of invention, by horse trading with exclusion rights completely divorced from the creation process they are intended to support. Yet Nathan is himself a creator! To your point, maybe he's just the jealous/narcissistic sort, or maybe he just doesn't empathize with folks whose creativity includes execution.


Like Edison? Only less original...


Totally agree. This tendency also makes it hard for people to acknowledge that someone who they know for doing things they don't like also may be doing things they like. Either everything somebody is completely bad or completely good. It can't be bad sometime and good sometime.


> This tendency also makes it hard for people to acknowledge that someone who they know for doing things they don't like also may be doing things they like.

And the other way around.


Or a thing they usually think is good gets rejected because it comes from the wrong person.


I fixed the rubric to be more factually accurate:

"He was the physicist who went to Microsoft and made his fortune. These days he’s a patent troll, extortionist, bad chef and a litigious piece of shit"


I feel like the guy who's about to say "what about all of the good things Hitler did?", but does patent trolling invalidate the good things this guy has helped contribute?

I feel like that the tech community, for all of our preaching about meritocracy and rational discussion, we have no problem piling on a fair amount of demonizing of people who engage in things we don't agree with, but may have some social value.

One person's patent trolling is another's patent protecting.

Again, none of this to defend his worst actions, but it's not like Satan created IV and uses it to eat children. Yes, this is a puff piece, but I'm always surprised that our community has no issue crapping on some people with no acknowledgement of anything positive they add.




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