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Meet IV: Phillip Wallace

“For some reason, I’ve had an interest in politics since a very young age, even when I was a teenager,” says Phillip Wallace, who joined Intellectual Ventures (IV) as government relations manager in spring 2015. “When I was in high school, I was always in student government, I was my class president every year. I always enjoyed the student elections.”

Meet IV: Phillip Wallace

Phillip grew up in Baton Rouge, La., about an hour north of New Orleans, and he went on to study political science and economics at Southern University in his hometown. “Political science was a very natural choice for me,” he says. “I wasn’t one of the college students who struggled to find a major, or didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I was interested in the political process.”

The logical next step for Phillip after he graduated was to move to the nerve center of national politics: Washington, D.C. His first job on Capitol Hill was with Senator Mary Landrieu from his home state, and then he decided to further his education by pursuing a master’s degree in public policy at George Washington University. “You don’t get much more political than being blocks away from the U.S. State Department and the White House,” he says, “having professors who’ve had distinguished careers in government and politics.”

His graduate school experience steered him to a position in the government affairs office with Hyundai Motor America, a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Company. Phillip enjoyed his role with Hyundai and stayed there for 2.5 years, but then he saw an opportunity with IV in 2015. “I knew that after working for such a large company,” he says, “I wanted to take advantage of a company that had greater flexibility, and those tend to be smaller companies, companies with 1,000 people or less. Their day-to-day business is innovation, they know how to be quick and adapt.”

That’s why the D.C.-based government relations office at IV felt like a great fit for him, and he now says—with his trademark sincerity—that his work has become “so natural that a lot of times what I do now doesn’t really feel like work.” 

At the Office
Today, Phillip’s role as senior manager of government relations takes many shapes. “I spend probably about 40 percent of my time doing what I consider retail lobbying: examining issues that are important to the business, whether it’s tax reform and tax policies, or whether we’re talking about patent reform, or looking at bills that impact the patent system.”

This sort of retail lobbying, says Phillip, often involves him going to Capitol Hill and meeting with members of Congress and their staff, occasionally meeting with regulatory officials in the new administration, and a range of other events and activities.

He then spends another 35 to 40 percent of his time making sure IV is visible in the right places, such as at industry conferences (when we caught up with him recently, he was at the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property’s Fifth Annual Fall Conference, “Real Intellectual Property Reform”).

Another huge project for Phillip, starting in 2016, has been organizing the first two Intellectual Ventures Expos on Capitol Hill. “In an ideal world,” he says, “it would be perfect if we were able to get every member of Congress and their staffers over to the IV Lab in Bellevue to see what we do on a day-to-day basis. Obviously, that’s not feasible, so I said, ‘Well, the next best thing is to bring some of the Lab to D.C. and show them what we’ve got.’ So we did. We took up space in one of the larger ballrooms on Capitol Hill on the House side and literally flew in the photonic fence, technology from various spinouts like Evolv and Pivotal [Commware] and Kymeta and TerraPower, and in kind of a science fair expo format, opened it up to the entire Hill and the general public. And we had tremendous success.”

Both expos were filled to capacity, and that success was a big part of what earned Phillip one of IV’s annual awards recognizing employees in 2016. “Yeah, that was a great surprise to me,” he says. “I was not expecting that, and honestly, it’s really a team effort. It takes a lot of work to pull off bringing that kind of equipment to Capitol Hill. The security checkpoints, the protocol to follow—it’s really a gigantic team effort that involved a lot of people.”

The 2018 expo is coming up on May 10, and Phillip is looking forward to the ‘wow’ factor. “My favorite part of my work is wowing people,” he says. “We show someone the type of technology we’re working on, or are capable of, or something in our pipeline for commercialization, and people are like, ‘Wow.’ People literally say ‘wow.’ It’s just very innovative.”


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Meet IV: Megan Bettilyon

“Every single day, I am exposed to new information, new technology, new ideas, new ways of just thinking about a particular topic,” says Megan Bettilyon, director of inventive government solutions and Global Good special projects. “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new.”

Meet IV: Megan Bettilyon

Nothing about Megan’s position is predictable, and that’s exactly how she likes it. She thrives on the diversity of her roles, from serving as field manager for the Arktek™ before its commercialization; to working with partners at the United Nations; to traveling to D.C. to collaborate with our government relations team on Capitol Hill; to managing IV’s programs that involve cooperation with the U.S. government; to other projects relating to climate change, nutrition and global health. “I get paid to learn,” she says. “I get paid to investigate and understand how these new technologies and these potential partners could have an immense impact on the work we’re doing in low-resources nations. And that is extremely exciting for me.”

Beyond the excitement of her work, though, is a more fundamental connection with the culture at Intellectual Ventures (IV). There’s a palpable energy, Megan says, that drives the people and research here—a shared personality and mission, a sense of being surrounded by kindred, curious, creative spirits. “I’ve been a ‘nerd’ my entire life,” she says, “and I am damn proud of it. When I was a kid, it was a hard name to be called, but I have embraced it. And at the Lab, there are just as many people who are just as nerdy or geeky as I am about the things they love. Everybody there has a passion, something they truly jive on, and that is cool.”

From Algae to IV
Before joining IV, Megan—who was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah—had explored a wide range of social and scientific interests. As an undergrad and then graduate student at the University of California San Diego, she studied everything from anthropology and Middle Eastern archeology, to marine biodiversity and conservation, renewable energy, domestic energy security for low-resource nations, even the enormous promise of algae. One of the common threads of her studies, though, has always been technology and how it impacts the world. “I’ve always been fascinated by how technological progress in any society can have a profound impact on the society itself,” she says.  

So when Megan first learned about IV and the Global Good Fund—which harnesses the power of technology and invention to solve humanitarian challenges in the developing world—she was  immediately intrigued. “I looked it up,” she says, “and was like, ‘Wow, this is what I do. This is my Nirvana. I looked online to see if they had any jobs, and they had just posted a program manager position the day before—it was a complete fluke.”

IV Impact
That was more than four and a half years ago. Megan has since worked on numerous projects for IV, and she can recall many highlights from among them. Yet the biggest standout has to be one of her earlier positions when she was working as the field manager for the Arktek™, a storage device that has the power to keep vaccines at their proper temperature for more than a month, even in scorching desert heat.

“The Arktek is still definitely, absolutely my favorite,” she says. “We’ve changed the way mothers in these remote villages handle healthcare and the vaccination of their children. They now know that a health post with an Arktek has safe and efficacious vaccines every single day of the month. They no longer have to wait until that one day when a nurse has the vaccines, and she would go out and do a campaign. Now they can come out to the clinic any day they want.”

So much about that experience has stuck with Megan—working closely with nurses at remote health posts, giving trainings and performing ad hoc repairs, working through monsoons, no electricity and other chaotic challenges in the field. But the biggest takeaway, by far, was the impact on the health of thousands of children in developing countries around the world. “These devices vaccinate children that were previously unable to be vaccinated by efficacious vaccines,” says Megan. “This is huge. It means more kids are being vaccinated, and the farther out we’re able to reach, the more children we’re going to be able to help.”

 


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Nathan Myhrvold on AI and Why There’s Nothing to Fear

Is artificial intelligence (AI) a boon or bane for humanity? 

Technologists have been grappling with this question for years, and invariably, the conversation returns to fear that these changes will displace millions of workers, lead to widespread hardship and throw society into economic crisis.

Our founder and CEO Nathan Myhrvold recently delivered the World Traders 2018 Tacitus Lecture to discuss this fear, which he calls the “innovation menace.” In his lecture, he recounts how history has illustrated that the “doom and gloom” conversation around new technologies is, and always has been, wrong—and why we needn't fear that progress in AI will outstrip society's ability to ensure that the technology improves our lives.

View the video below to watch Nathan deliver the London World Traders Guild annual Tacitus Lecture, in which distinguished speakers deliver remarks on a concern affecting world trade.

IV CEO and founder Nathan Myhrvold delivers his Tacitus Lecture at the City of London's Guildhall on February 22, 2018. Photograph copyright Jake Sugden.

Nathan delivers his Tacitus Lecture at the City of London's Guildhall on February 22, 2018. Photographs copyright Jake Sugden.


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Meet IV: Guillaume Chabot-Couture

Seven years ago, Guillaume Chabot-Couture had just finished his Ph.D. at Stanford University. A native of Quebec City in Canada, Guillaume had studied physics as an undergrad at Université Laval in his hometown, and then high-temperature superconductors for his recently completed dissertation. His next move, though, was fairly wide open.   

Meet IV: Guillaume Chabot-Couture

Hiking the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island

“I was considering many of the usual routes at the end of a graduate degree,” he says: “working for a national laboratory, trying to get a postdoc in academia, or joining a large company. I was also looking at other areas, patent law and different ways to apply this knowledge.”

Through a bit of happenstance, says Guillaume, a friend reached out to him about a possible opportunity with Intellectual Ventures and its Epidemiological Modeling (EMOD) project, led by Philip Welkhoff. At the time, it was a small group of people inventing ways to build more realistic simulations of disease transmission, with a focus on improving and saving lives in developing countries using quantitative analysis. “When I had the opportunity to interview for this job, which combined analytics and mathematical modeling with a field that was largely unknown to me—communicable diseases, global health—I think my curiosity kicked in in a big way. I thought it sounded really interesting and wanted to learn more about it.”

Guillaume ended up getting the job, and EMOD has since grown about tenfold into what is now the Institute for Disease Modeling (IDM). As a senior research manager, he leads multiple teams working on building models of disease transmission and incidence, as well as other tools to help accelerate the eradication of infectious diseases in the developing world. “I think they took a chance hiring me, someone who didn’t know much about disease modeling, but it’s the best job I’ve ever had,” he says.

A New Field
IV often draws from varied, even unlikely, backgrounds to build research teams, as each new perspective can lead to unexpected insights and results. For Guillaume, after spending most of his student life studying physics, that meant trading superconductors for disease modeling. And that transition, while not exactly obvious, still very much triggered the same curiosity and potential for far-reaching impact that has always driven his work.

His team at IDM focuses on a number of vaccine-preventable diseases in the developing world, including poliomyelitis (polio) and measles, and they also tackle questions related to vaccine delivery. “One of the great strengths of a model is its ability to ask what-if questions,” says Guillaume, and he estimates that 80 to 90 percent of their work involves testing polio eradication strategies and implementation, and designing models that could have profound effects on disease prevention and eradication around the world.

A key element of this research involves partnering with other organizations—such as the Gates Foundation, World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a range of academic institutions—as well as directly with countries. “You can’t look just at problems that are interesting from an academic point of view,” he says. “You have this imperative to be relevant and to connect with what the real problems are. So we try really hard to build collaborations with people within these countries, within these programs, to make sure what we work on is going to be the most helpful. Without that connection to what’s really happening, we wouldn’t be as effective.”

One of the most memorable collaborations for Guillaume came in 2012 with a project in Pakistan. They were working on a model to predict the spread of polio, but when they first got started, they didn’t know how effective their predictions would be—or even if partners on the ground in Pakistan would accept the data. “There’s always a little bit of uncertainty when you begin a new collaboration,” he says. “You don’t know how much you’ll be able to help, or how good your models are going to be.”

Initially, Guillaume says no one took their predictions seriously. It was one of the first models the team had built, and they were essentially outsiders trying to influence strategic decisions within Pakistan. Then a polio case appeared in an unexpected area.

“We didn’t know right away,” he says, “but one of our predictions—one of the ones that people had dismissed—turned out to be true in a northern part of Pakistan, where people generally believed it’s too cold for polio to survive and to transmit. That’s one thing we had predicted, and no one really understood how we had been able to predict it.”

That success was a huge breakthrough for the team. “There was this interest all the sudden in this new method we had come up with that could predict these cases and outbreaks,” says Guillaume. “From that point on, we transitioned from an outside group that’s trying to show we can add value, to being invited to contribute to the strategic process these countries had in thinking about how to tackle polio. So I remember that being a really exciting time.”

For Guillaume personally, as well, that engagement really reinforced the value of his research. “I took a leap in leaving physics,” he says, “but that was one of the measurable moments, like, ‘Ok, this was a good decision. This is turning out to be a really interesting job with opportunities to impact global health in meaningful ways on a short timeline.”


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Accelerating Impact

ISF Incubator calls for entrepreneurs who want to bring next-generation tech to big markets

Accelerating Impact

For years, Intellectual Ventures (IV) has built business on the back of new technologies: To date we’ve created 15 companies, which have raised more than $700 million in funding and created more than 400 jobs. With each company, we’ve learned how to work faster and smarter, and now we are accelerating this model by launching the Invention Science Fund (ISF) Incubator—a team within IV that matches outside entrepreneurs with our inventions and resources to disrupt big markets like health, telecommunications and transportation.

It’s a different approach to the incubator model. We have the inventions, the resources, and the know-how, and now we need passionate entrepreneurs who can execute.

Access to our state-of-the-art lab, our patent portfolio, and our network of engineers, mentors and investors means we can provide the tools for success—whether it’s a piece of special equipment from our mechanical engineering and instrument fabrication shop to create a prototype, or assistance setting up a business and navigating the legal landscape. We believe the best way to bring cutting-edge science and new technology to market is to put it in the hands of the most capable, passionate people, and provide the necessary resources to build a business.

And we’re not looking to build just any business, we invent for impact. Past IV spinouts like Evolv, Kymeta and Echodyne developed hardware solutions to transform their market, and we continue to believe hardware is the catalyst for fundamental change in big markets. The current pipeline of ISF Incubator spinouts is poised to do the same with breakthroughs in low-cost sensors, wireless power transmission, and biomedical devices.

So who are we looking for? We like ambitious entrepreneurs, fundable CEOs and market disruptors who have experience launching startups and leading successful companies. If this sounds like you, check out our available patents to learn more, and feel free to drop us a note.

Top Nine Invention Stories from March

March marks Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day celebrations around the world. At Intellectual Ventures, we commend the contributions of women to the field of invention, and work to support more women and girls to pursue careers in STEM. As IV President and COO Adriane Brown has aptly said: “I believe that collaboration of great, diverse minds is how we will solve our world’s toughest challenges and create breakthrough technologies.” 

Top Nine Invention Stories from March

Check out our top invention stories from March, from IV and spinout news to inventors and the grand challenges they’re addressing. 

IV in the news

For International Women’s Day, IV’s Adriane Brown spoke at a panel with other top female leaders in Seattle who are championing women empowerment and making an impact in their communities. Discover why the event was a GeekWire top calendar pick and listen to the full panel discussion here

IV spinout Evolv raised $18 million for high-tech body scanners that don’t cause long lines at security.

IV’s Global Good and Biopromic joined forces to confront tuberculosis – a disease that takes 1.8 million lives each year. Their plan: a low-cost, accessible diagnostic test for communities in low-income settings.

As part of Global Good, scientists at IV’s Institute for Disease Modeling are on the frontlines of the battle against malaria. Hear from one of those scientists in Big Think.

With the start of spring and new leaders in Washington, IV founder Peter Detkin weighed in on why patents matter and how patent holders can dispute “alternative facts” on Insights.

IV is using its Photonic Fence to harness the power of lasers to save Florida’s oranges from the Asian citrus psyllid and this month, Arty Makagon gave us the inside scoop on the story behind the story.

What it means to be an inventor

For International Women’s Day, Scientific American illuminated the need for greater inclusion at all levels in science and explained why women feel as though they are never “just scientists.”

The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation named Tony Pan and Max Mankin – the founders of Seattle-based startup Modern Electron – as 2016 Strauss Award Winners.

Proving that age doesn’t have to be a barrier, the 94-year-old inventor of the lithium-ion battery is developing a new battery that’s three times better than the original.

Want to be up-to-date on all the invention news? Subscribe to our blog and be sure to follow us on Twitter


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Failing for Success: Alexander Graham Bell

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” - Alexander Graham Bell

Failing for Success: Alexander Graham Bell

Bell at the opening of the long-distance line from New York to Chicago in 1892 via Wikimedia Commons.

March marks the quick succession of two important anniversaries in the life of Alexander Graham Bell – his birthday (March 3) and the date he patented his groundbreaking telephone (March 7). And though we think of his invention as one that changed the course of history, success for Bell wasn’t always smooth. But while Bell encountered failure in his long career, it did not stop him from exploring new ideas.

Known as the father of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell’s invention historically changed how people communicated. In fact, Bell’s innovation completely disrupted the norm of communications. When he tried to sell the telephone patent to Western Union in the late-1800s, the company’s president scoffed at the idea, and thought of the telephone as only a toy. Furthermore, Bell’s other 16, non-communications-related patents are a testament to his general interest in inventive ideas across various activities.  

Despite the multitude of invention success, Bell encountered failure as well. Many of his inventions, while ahead of their time, were not as successful as the telephone. Here are a couple of Bell’s invention ideas that did not work out as intended:

Early Metal Detector

This near-success occurred in 1881 after the assassination of then-President James A. Garfield. Bell, his assistant, Sumner Tainter, and mathematician Simon Newcomb developed a device that hummed when close to metal. During initial testing, the device succeeded and found bullets that the men placed under their clothing. However, while searching for the bullet in President Garfield’s body, the detector hummed continually.

Unfortunately, the bedsprings in President Garfield’s bed led to the continuous humming, and the invention was seemingly a complete failure. Nonetheless, Bell is credited with providing the framework for the modern metal detector.

Kite Flight

Later in life, Bell immersed himself in the study of flight. He supported aerospace engineering through the Aerial Experiment Association (AEA), and came up with concepts meant to progress the science of human flight. From 1907 through 1912 Bell primarily experimented with tetrahedral wings, or box-kites. However, many of his concepts could not stay aloft for long periods of time, and the Wright brothers became the first inventors to perfect extended flight.

Nevertheless, architect and artist, Tomás Saraceno, recently used Bell’s idea to create a tetrahedral wing that stays aloft in the air. This concept, according to Saraceno may one day lead to the development of floating solar-powered structures for energy production.

Interested to hear how more inventors throughout history persevered in the face of failure? Check out previous installments of our Failing for Success series, including Henry Ford, Nikola Tesla and The Wright Brothers.


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Story Behind the Story: More on IV’s Photonic Fence with Arty Makagon

From Star Wars and Star Trek to James Bond and the Terminator, lasers have become a staple of the science fiction and action film worlds. But since their invention 57 years ago, the day-to-day use of lasers is no longer fantasy. Today, lasers find powerful and wide-ranging use in science, medicine, the military and now, even disease control. 

Story Behind the Story: More on IV’s Photonic Fence with Arty Makagon

Global Good’s Photonic Fence, or “insect-zapping laser” as described in a recent MIT Technology Review article, has extended the potential for lasers even further. Though originally developed to control vector-borne diseases like malaria, the technology is now being deployed to the agricultural battle ground of Florida to engage another potent pest. The enemy: an insect invader destroying the sunshine state’s oranges.

To get the inside scoop on the battle-ready weapon, we sat down with Photonic Fence technical project lead Arty Makagon to discuss how the technology works, how it’s progressed since its first generation and why it has the power to defeat the Asian citrus psyllid.

IV Insights: How far have you come since the first generation of the Photonic Fence?

Arty: We started with the question – can [the device] see far? We checked that off with our first-generation prototype. For Gen-2, we wanted to know - can we see targets both near and far? We started climbing the technology ladder. Now, with Gen-3, can we see near and far and kill and start hitting our performance benchmarks on controlling the pest we’re after.

We’ve also worked to understand and fine-tune the lethal mechanism so that when the bugs are killed, they don’t even look damaged. We have videos of earlier tests where you can see via high-speed camera that we burned the wings off mosquitos. That’s neat to watch, but it turns out that it’s gratuitous overkill – and so that isn’t how the machine works now. After we shoot a bug, when we look at it under a microscope, we can’t tell where it was shot – there are no singe marks and no gaping wounds.

So how did the bug die? We sent samples to the University of Washington histology lab and found out that essentially we end up cooking the bug. Our laser acts like a very precise, “short-wavelength microwave oven”. When you look at a cross-section of a chicken breast cooked in a microwave and a cross section of a bug dosed with a laser, they essentially look the same.

What’s the big deal about the Asian citrus psyllid?

The psyllid is a problem that’s screaming for a solution. Since its high 15 years ago, there’s been a 60 percent reduction in total citrus production in Florida. You may not have noticed, but the makeup of your carton of orange juice has been changing over the years as the varieties of oranges that are best suited to juice production are dying off.

The Asian citrus psyllid is also particularly insidious because it spreads a virus and can infect an entire tree rather than ruining individual pieces of fruit like other pests. Because the psyllid is so destructive, farmers have been trying all kinds of creative methods to control the pest. They’ve deployed everything from parasite wasps that eat the early stage psyllids to planting sacrificial species – like guava – that the psyllids appeared to prefer. But despite these efforts, there are bunch of now-derelict groves in Florida that are just so infested that they can’t be used.

Other citrus growing states are on the cusp of having a big psyllid problem, but there’s nothing they can do about it. Lots of places are spending a lot of money on trying to prevent the psyllid, but with very little success. The psyllid and the virus they spread are both in Texas and California. Growers are trying to monitor how the psyllids are spreading, but even those mechanisms aren’t terribly effective.

In short, we’re working in this area because this is not a Florida problem or even a U.S. problem – the Asian citrus psyllid is a global problem. And no one has found a solution to this problem, short of “run away and plant in regions less hospitable to psyllids.”

How do people react when they see the Photonic Fence in action?

I think the best way to describe it for first-time viewers is disbelief.

We do two kinds of demonstrations at the IV Lab with the Photonic Fence – a tracking demo and a lethal demo – and both can be kind of dumbfounding in different ways. For the tracking demo, you can watch a screen that shows what’s happening in real time for a box of bugs that’s 60 meters away. It takes a minute for the brain to process that the machine is seeing something that would be effectively impossible to see with the human eye.

For the lethal demo, you start with a box of 25 mosquitos and within a few seconds, there are 25 mosquito corpses on the floor of the box. This also takes a minute to register, because you can’t see anything except for mosquitos falling to the ground because the laser in our system is outside of the visible range.

Missed the original story? Check it out on MIT Technology Review. And stay tuned for more “behind the interview” information from our experts on Insights.


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Facts: Basic and Alternative

As a new Congress descends on DC, the push for changes to our patent system continues. In February, despite already historic changes to the system over the past few years, Senate leaders called for more tweaks. With a new administration in town it’s a good time to review the bidding.  

Let’s start with some basic facts: Patents are more than arcane legal documents; they represent a legal claim to rights in an invention. Regardless of whether you subscribe to the “patents as property” or “patents as defining a liability” theory, there is no dispute that patents are an asset – they can be bought, sold, licensed or otherwise transferred.

This fact is fundamental to the functioning of the patent system, and the notion that inventions are valuable and are worthy of investment is the core operating principle of Intellectual Ventures. This was true when my co-founder Nathan wrote a Harvard Business Review piece on the topic nearly a decade ago, and it is true today.

Over the years others have adopted IV’s principle and, as a result, a market grew up around these investments. One would think that this would be viewed as a good thing – if we agree that inventing is something to be incentivized, then a market for investing in inventions will provide additional incentives for those doing the invention and, ultimately, fund more invention.

Unfortunately, not all saw the growing market for invention rights as a positive development. Market leaders were quite happy with the status quo in which inventors had limited ability to seek recourse when their inventions were used. As the market developed, and the playing field was leveled, the market leaders developed a strategy familiar to the new administration – they developed a set of alternative facts to push the idea that the system was failing.

For example, there was much hue and cry over the alleged use of mass mailing of demand letters to end users of products alleging infringement. After extensive analysis (and expenditure of tax dollars) the FTC reached a settlement with the one (1) actual offender, who had extracted licenses from exactly two (2) small businesses.

Over the past decade these rhetorical attacks on invention rights have been endless. Common refrains include: Patent litigation is out of control! Poor quality patents are killing investment in technology and dragging down companies! Demand letters are defrauding businesses! Software shouldn’t be patentable! Trolls are abusing the International Trade Commission!

Upon closer inspection many of these claims fall apart. It’s easy to see that patent litigation is on the decline; as patent rights have weakened, US companies are filing for more patents in Europe while applications for US patents remain flat; no public company has yet to report a material patent infringement award against it; and, venture capital investment has approached near-record levels.

This assault on the system lead to the passage of the America Invents Act, and a further bevy of changes including several Supreme Court rulings: two encouraging judges to award attorney’s fees to the winner in patent cases, another which muddied the waters when it comes to what is even deserving of a patent, and a third that could reshape where a patent owner can assert his rights.

And while the Supreme Court has certainly been busy, it isn’t  alone, as the lower courts recalibrated patent litigation through new rules increasing the amount of information a patent owner must bring to bear at the beginning of a case and the Patent Office has effectively stopped issuing patents in some areas of technology while invalidating existing patents at a rapid clip.

The result of the policies put in place by the Courts, Congress and the USPTO, over the past decade have – by design – made it more difficult for a patent holder to keep an infringing product off the shelves, made it impossible for anyone to say with certainty whether an existing patent is valid, and have made it impossible to predict the amount of damages a patent holder can expect if his invention is used without permission. 

While many large companies are complicit in pushing the anti-patent rhetoric publically, a small set of scholars have been working diligently to espouse these views in academia, and, as a result have become extremely influential, reshaping the patent system in their image.

In a recent law review article, a professor from USC’s Gould School of Law argues that these scholars not only built their case with “little to no supporting evidence,” but also that the outcome of their advocacy – the litany of changes to the patent system over the past decade – is doing the opposite of their intent, and actually harming innovation. 

The net result of the uncertainty is hardly a surprise. When experts can’t accurately predict the value of an asset – or even say with certainty if it actually exists! – there will be less investment in that asset. And that is what we are seeing now; the market leaders, and the academics supporting them, have effectively suppressed the amount of investment available for invention in the US.

While the short-sighted among us may rejoice at this result, surely others will see the folly in this approach. We urge policy-makers to reject efforts to reshape the system by anecdote. With a new Congress in session, patent holders have a chance to dispute the alternative facts put forth by a small subset of academics and reverse the trend towards a weaker patent system. 


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How Ingenuity Is Art: Top Invention Stories from February

In 2002, Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space said, “The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin… they are manifestations of the same thing. The art and sciences are avatars of human creativity.” 

How Ingenuity Is Art: Top Invention Stories from February

While creativity is often associated with art in its most traditional sense – sculptures, paintings, photography – Jemison reminds us that scientific innovation is a work of art in itself. In fact, creativity is intrinsically tied to much of our work. Whether we’re building cutaways of our technology, discovering ways to detect disease, or creating a new method to store milk, finding answers to pressing global challenges requires the imaginative ability to see beyond pre-existing ideas.

So this month, the links we love tell tales of artists both within and outside the walls of IV who, like Jemison, use the power of thought as their paintbrush – leaving their mark through inventions that improve our world.

IV in the news

This month, IV spinout Kymeta reached a new milestone in its satellite antenna internet technology for connected vehicles. Find out about its successful demo of the tech from GeekWire. The technology disruptor connecting our world was also named to Fast Company’s top-10 most innovative companies in space.

IV’s work with the University of Washington and Duke University on wireless charging technology was featured on Seattle’s KIRO7 and described as “pushing the boundaries of physics.”

IV is working on a device to detect fake drugs that can be easily accessed in the developing world. Learn more in The Guardian about IV’s collaborative effort with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and how it could save lives.

At IV, we’re working to make Nikola Tesla’s dream of wireless charging a reality using metamaterials. Hear firsthand from IV’s Russell Hannigan on the technology that could be charging drones wirelessly in the near future.  

IV’s founder and CEO Nathan Myhrvold was featured in Eater, discussing everything from the art of food and the forthcoming Modernist Bread book, to cutting-edge nuclear reactors and his interest in dinosaurs. 

Global Good has teamed up with QuantuMDx on a mobile diagnostic test that could save the lives of hundreds of thousands of women in the developing world. The test – designed to be affordable, easy to use, and highly accurate – could significantly reduce cervical cancer deaths in the developing world.

Invention on display around the world

At IV, we’re working hard to close the gender gap in STEM and we aren’t alone. Find out the how and why more organizations are engaging girls in science from a young age.

In less than a day, six undergraduate students from MIT created a device that could transform how the blind community reads. Don’t miss how these inventors transformed their ‘collective goal to change the world’ into a working prototype.

An 11-year-old girl is bringing the worlds of medical and 3D-printed prosthetics together – with the artistic flare of glitter nonetheless. Learn about her world changing idea from Fast Company.

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News You Can Use

Intellectual Ventures regularly shares roundups of invention and intellectual property news. To read the other posts in this series, see below:

Conrad Burke

Conrad Burke

Conrad is the Vice President of New Ventures the Invention Science Fund. He is based in Silicon Valley, California and is a serial entrepreneur who most recently sold his startup company, Innovalight, a nanomaterials technology firm specialized in the photovoltaics (solar) sector, to DuPont Corporation. He subsequently managed two different global marketing businesses within DuPont – photovoltaics materials and bioscience enzymes.

Peter Detkin

Peter Detkin

Peter N. Detkin is a founder of Intellectual Ventures, where he focuses on a variety of projects relating to intellectual property and invention.

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