Intellectual Ventures acquires hundreds of patents for new troll fund

Patent file

It’s been a good year for patent trolls, and now the biggest troll of them all wants to keep the party going: a report reveals that Intellectual Ventures has acquired more than 200 new patents, which will help IV extend its legal tentacles in fields like wireless infrastructure and cloud computing.

In case you’re unfamiliar, IV’s peculiar brand of innovation involves acquiring old patents and using them to arm thousands of shell companies, whose sole business is to extract licensing fees from productive businesses.

News of IV’s restocked war chest comes after earlier reports that initial investors, including Apple, had declined to participate in IV’s newest trolling fund. According to the report, by law firm Richardson Oliver and spotted by IAM, the fund is on track since IV purchased 16 percent of all available patent packages in the first half of 2014. A chart by the firm suggests it paid $1-$2 million in most cases; here’s a partial look:

The chart shows six patents related to the cloud computing industry, which has so far escaped the rampant patent trolling that has plagued mobile phone and app developers, but could now be prime picking for IV in the coming year.

IV is well-positioned to exploit the patents thanks to Senate Democrats, who in May killed a bipartisan reform bill that would have undercut many of the economic incentives for patent trolling. IV has also been active on the lobbying front, filing to start a PAC this year and donating sums of money to Senator Dick Durbin (D-Il), who is closely allied to the trial lawyer lobby that reportedly helped to derail reform.

If there’s a dark cloud for IV, however, it may be the growing public skepticism towards patent trolls, who now account for 67 percent of all new lawsuits. The trolls have received harsh treatment from the likes of NPR and the New York Times, while the Supreme Court’s repeated criticism of slip-shod patents may finally be making it harder for companies to abuse them.

Meanwhile, respected tech figures like Marco Arment have lashed out at IV’s business model as “cowardly” while inventors like Tesla’s Elon Musk have questioned the value of patents to begin with.

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