Arik Hesseldahl

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Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures Said to Be Hunting for New Capital

Intellectual Ventures founder Nathan Myhrvold

Intellectual Ventures founder Nathan Myhrvold

It appears that Intellectual Ventures, the controversial company founded on the idea that it could create a capital marketplace in patents, is having trouble raising money for a new fund.

According to a Reuters report Thursday which cites sources familiar with the matter, I.V. has slowed down its purchasing of patents and is on the hunt for new sources of funding. Having raised about $6 billion since its founding in 2000, it has gathered up a portfolio of some 70,000 patents. The story said the firm is on the hunt for another $3 billion.

One problem: Early investors, including Microsoft and Google, are taking a pass. Google in particular has been on the business end of I.V.-spawned lawsuits against its Motorola Mobility unit. Most of those cases began before Google owned Motorola, but I.V. sued again in June.

As it happens, I.V. had a busy summer. It raised its profile in Washington, D.C., boosting its spending on lobbyists against the backdrop of an increase in White House interest in crafting policies meant to regulate patent-trading firms. And last month it struck a licensing deal with Nest, the smart thermostat company.

Founder Nathan Myhrvold, a former Microsoft CTO, likes to describe his business model as “invention capital.” Others, namely Google, have labeled I.V. a “patent troll.” And as Myhrvold readily acknowledged in an unapologetic interview with Walt Mossberg at the tenth D: All Things Digital conference in 2012, he’s never going to be the popular kid in the class. Here’s the video of that interview, which in light of I.V.’s reported troubles, bears watching again.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work