Patent-holding firm Intellectual Ventures trims workforce

Intellectual Ventures, the large patent-holding company co-founded by former Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold, is trimming its workforce by 5 percent, Recode reported Thursday.

The private firm based in the Seattle area raises money for funds that spend billions buying a treasure trove of patents. It pursues licensing claims against companies it says are infringing the patents.

But the company has come under more scrutiny in recent years and there have been reports that it has had difficulty raising its next fund.

The company is often derided as a patent “troll” for not making anything with the patents it holds except to pursue patent claims. Patent reform advocates hold up “IV,” as it is known, as a symbol of how the U.S. patent system is broken. A federal patent reform bill seeking to curtail so-called “trolls” has passed the House and the Senate is next to take up the issue.

According to Reuters, IV used money from a 2008 fund to buy patents. But that fund has expired. The company has had trouble raising its next fund, with some tech companies that were original investors such as Google declining to contribute, GeekWire said, citing a previous Reuters report. 

This week, a judge declared a mistrial after a jury couldn’t agree on a patent infringement case that Intellectual Ventures brought against Google, Reuters reported. It was the first trial in IV’s 14-year history.

On the topic of its workforce reduction, the company told Recode:

We continue to refine our business and in doing so restructured the company to deliver on our commitments, including maximizing the return for our investors. This restructure is a combination of head count and operational improvements.


Photo: Former Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold co-founded Intellectual Ventures. He’s also an author; he’s shown in this photo promoting “Modernist Cuisine.” (Mike Kane/Los Angeles Times/MCT archives)


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