Nathan Myhrvold is smarter than me, but he still doesn’t get it. Or perhaps just doesn’t want to.
Myhrvold, the former CTO at Microsoft, gained a doctorate in theoretical and mathematical physics by the time he was 23, and has nearly 50 patents to his name. And, as the Wall Street Journal details today, through his company, Intellectual Ventures, he holds an additional 20,000-plus patents and patent applications covering everything from lasers to computer chips.
That’s not the problem.
Intellectual Ventures, it seems, collects large sums — between $200 million to $400 million a pop from everyone from Verizon to Cisco — in return for licenses (and an equity stake in the firm), says WSJ sources.
That’s not the problem, either.
The problem is, he thinks his actions are justified. He calls this “invention capitalism,” and claims the practice of extracting exorbitant royalty and licensing fees is built on the same business model as such companies as IBM and Texas Instruments.
But that’s not what the Framers had in mind when they wrote the Constitution. Those wise men wrote the federal government’s first and foremost piece of legislation in a way to ensure ideas stemming from the sciences and arts were protected — but only for a limited time — and so as to encourage innovation for the common good. Ideas beget ideas. Getting those ideas into the public domain expedites innovation. Collecting patents for the sake of extracting tremendous fees runs counter to that noble concept.
Nathan Myhrvold should go back to school. This time, he should study American history, and specifically, the story of the Framers. There’s a lot he could learn.