Intellectual Ventures’ laboratory in Bellevue, Washington. Heisenberg Media / flickr Intellectual Ventures (IV) earns special attention in the world of “patent assertion entities” by dint of its size. Some so-called “patent trolls” have a few patents to their name, while others have a few dozen; IV has thousands. Some patent companies have just a few employees; IV has hundreds. It also owns a lab near Seattle, where it hosts “invention sessions” that include guests like Bill Gates.

In the early stages, IV marketed itself as a kind of patent defense fund, and it got tech-sector heavyweights like Google, Apple, eBay, and Cisco to invest. Since its founding in 2000, IV is believed to have raised about $6 billion in cash, of which it has recouped about $3 billion in licensing payments. But the strategy of IV, headed by ex-Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, changed over time.

As the company began looking for giant payouts, it became the bête noire of Silicon Valley rather than an ally.

A few years ago, IV started filing lawsuits.

Now one of its cases, over three smartphone patents, will go to a jury—a case against Google-owned Motorola, no less, a company known for its reluctance to settle cases. 3     

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