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The Trouble with Nathan Myhrvold’s Pro-Patent Arguments (kedrosky.com)
64 points by pathik on July 20, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 16 comments



From Wikipedia: "Myhrvold, usually with coinventors, holds 17 U.S. patents assigned to Microsoft[3] and has applied for more than 500 patents.[4] In addition, Myhrvold and coinventors hold 115 U.S. patents assigned mostly to The Invention Science Fund I, LLC"

Sounds like someone's got a lot to gain from the patent system staying the way it is.


It also sounds like he's not the stereotypical patent troll who hasn't created anything himself, but just buys patents.


"However, Myhrvold has turned that trickle of ideas into a torrent by acquiring patents. The concept is simple: Intellectual Ventures buys technology patents (30,000 and counting), gathers them into a critical mass then sells or licenses the intellectual property."

  http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/entrepreneur/article7127608.ece
(via the Wikipedia article on Intellectual Ventures, Myhrvold's company)


Yeah, they've blurred the line a little bit. But the canonical patent troll is one that hasn't created anything, just capitalizes someone else's patents... and Myhrvold doesn't really fit into that category.


There is nothing to stop a formerly innovating person from currently acting the troll. Former innovation does not sweeten current trolling


What's a troll? Definitions vary, but they all agree that it includes not innovating, just purchasing and asserting patents.

All I was saying is that this definition doesn't really fit.


Not quite that simple. They also work with leading scientists to innovate.


1. Ad hominem 2. Begging the question 3. Unsubstantiated generalization 4. Mis-quote 5. Misunderstanding the original comment

I don't necessarily agree with Myhrvold, but I don't think this guy is giving him enough credit.

The problem Myhrvold gives is real: large companies with lots of resources can, if they choose to, steal your idea and try to compete. This problem comes up on HN periodically, and I think the canon is to simply have the better product. I would call this playing field more level than the one where entrepreneurial teams can't compete at all.


Are you just listing a bunch of random logical fallacies? Every one of his points is real, even though they have a (deservedly) aggressive tone.

The "canon is to simple have the better product?" What happens when you're a small developer and a company like Microsoft or Lodsys or Intellectual Ventures holds some ancient patent to an obvious feature you just happened to include in your product? Having the best product in the world isn't going to help you very much.


the problem is the word steal..

Company A has $1 billion in cash and some high level exeprts in implementing CMS

Company B has $1 million in cash..

..that is not stealing ..that is just one is better prepared than the other to execute the idea..

Myhrvold would have better argument if he stuck to the patent context..ie the public good part in long term later is balanced by in the short-term with the invent0or getting some cash via patent royalties

The situation I described above is right from MS's past playbook..


"If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants. From now on everyone standing on my shoulders must pay a hefty price." Myhrvold.


This is an incredibly lame piece. The best I can find to say for it is that he spelt Myhrvold's name right. Otherwise it is crummy rant. He couldn't even do research a 4th grader would find simple - look up his target in Wikipedia and take the trouble to read enough to find out that M is indeed smart so he doesn't have to take the word of others for it.

The first para in Wikipedia would give him a clue. "Myhrvold attended Mirman School,[6] and began college at age 14.[7] He studied mathematics, geophysics, and space physics at UCLA (BSc, Masters). He was awarded a Hertz Foundation Fellowship for graduate study and he chose to study at Princeton University, where he earned a master's degree in mathematical economics and completed a PhD in theoretical and mathematical physics by age 23. He also attended Santa Monica College. For one year, he held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Cambridge working under Stephen Hawking, studying cosmology, quantum field theory in curved space time and quantum theories of gravitation."

So if this is his level of research why on earth would anyone in their right minds who is not already a patent hater take this chump seriously?


You can invent some stuff and earn some decent patents and still be a patent troll.

You can be a genius and still have an anti-innovation business model.

Stronger patents on every little technique you can use on the Internet, held by people like Myrhvold, aren't very likely to help hackers at startups.

Those startup hackers who have real innovation that needs IP protection, don't need help from patent trolls.


I don't understand what, if any, point you are really making here.


1) The fact Myhrvold is brilliant is beside the point 2) if Kedrosky looked up Myhrvold's credentials in Wikipedia instead of hearing from people who knew him first-hand, Kedrosky would still be taking other people's word for his brilliance


Horrible article. This guy seems to have a personal chip on his shoulder:

I have a hunch he’s 1980s Microsoft-smart, which is to say he’s about as much fun to be with as a talking Wikipedia page, but hey, some people like that.

While Myhrvold has only done things like created the most prominent computer science research institution in the world, written what is now heralded as one of the finest cooking books ever written, co-authored a NY Times #1 best-seller, and was amongst the most highly regarded young physicists of his time -- among other things.

And this guy Kedrosky apparently does finance and apparently nothing of merit in or beyond that. As they say, those in glass houses should not drop huge boulders on their toes.




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