A couple of years ago, I made a post extolling the polymathic virtues of Nathan Myhrvold. I didn’t know much about him, besides what was explained in his Wikipedia entry, but that was enough for me to conclude that he was a source of light in the world. A couple of readers disagreed and made strong cases for why Myhrvold is not the hero I naively presented him to be. Andrew explained:
Nathan Myhrvold is a jerk. He files for useless patents just so he can use them to sue and shake down other companies that actually are innovating. He doesn’t actually invent or create anything. His company Intellectual Vultures does perform a service or make a product that people use; all it does is manufacture litigation.
I wasn’t sure what to make of it at the time, but earlier this week I came upon a fascinating and deeply depressing profile of Intellectual Ventures by NPR reporter Laura Sydell and This American Life producer/Planet Money co-host Alex Blumberg. The piece is called When Patents Attack and, in the words of its creators, it asks
Why would a company rent an office in a tiny town in East Texas, put a nameplate on the door, and leave it completely empty for a year? The answer involves a controversial billionaire physicist in Seattle, a 40 pound cookbook, and a war waging right now, all across the software and tech industries.
This infographic discusses some of the facts behind the patent industry and how it’s changed as software, technology, and the internet have developed at an incredible pace. I find the information to say a lot about the state of development and innovation; both how important it can be to everyday life, and the problems it can face on a larger scale.
Thanks to Andrew, Frank Lee and everyone for opening my eyes to this and punching holes in my hero worship.