Magazine

Online Extra: Inside the Innovation Machine


LOCATION

A low-rise office park, with a swamp steadily encroaching on the parking lot, in Bellevue, Wash.

FUNDING

IV has raised about $1 billion from investors including Microsoft, Intel, Sony, and Apple.

TEAM

Nathan Myhrvold oversees 110 employees, about equally divided among attorneys, technologists, and business staff. IV's co-founder is Edward Jung, who was also a top Microsoft scientist. Peter Detkin, who headed Intel's patent and licensing departments, is a managing director. The staff hold PhDs in subjects ranging from microbiology to material science.

THE BUSINESS MYHRVOLD MOST LIKES TALKING ABOUT

IV funds a stable of inventors, both at universities and at its own "invention sessions," with the aim of producing patentable technologies. It has filed roughly 500 patent applications in areas such as digital photography, nutriceuticals (foodstuff that provide health benefits), e-commerce, robotics, and acoustics.

THE BUSINESS THAT'S MAKING MANY IN THE TECH WORLD NERVOUS

IV buys a giant volume of patents. Part of IV's sales pitch to big tech companies is that by putting money into IV they can get joint ownership of the patents, giving them the ability to countersue "patent trolls"" who attack their intellectual property.

COVERT OPS

With nondisclosure agreements, shell companies, and a tight-lipped staff, IV keeps itself under wraps in a way that's extreme even in the highly secretive invention marketplace.


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