Disruption Invites Controversy

July 25, 2011

By definition, a disruptive innovation is a product or technology that, when introduced, either radically changes existing markets or creates wholly new ones, thereby disrupting companies and networks reliant on the status quo. In simpler terms, it signifies rapid and unexpected progress…a change in context. Intellectual Ventures is a disruptive organization, and like any other product or service which disrupts established markets, we’ve invited our share of controversy. We appreciate that patents are an emotionally charged issue that generates a lot of conversation and varying points of view, but we want to take a moment to provide our perspective on a recent characterization.

The recent story on “This American Life” dramatically portrays the point of view that patents have a negative impact on innovation. We at Intellectual Ventures fundamentally disagree with that notion, which flies in the face of centuries of evidence. While the story’s reporters use some colorful and dramatic devices in their portrayal of patents in general and IV specifically, which we welcome, other characterizations in the piece are frankly absurd. Those excesses are unfortunate because they distract listeners from a real, substantive issue: what are the best ways to ensure that ideas are given the value they are due? IV believes that inventors who invest all the time, money, and emotional resources that are required to protect their ideas with patents earn a right to recognize a return on their investments. 

IV is challenging the status quo by focusing its business solely on invention and investment in patents. But we think this disruption is an important and necessary step in the development of a fully functioning marketplace for ideas. Our ultimate value proposition is simple: we provide an efficient way for patent holders to get paid for the inventions they own, and in turn, for technology companies to gain easy access to the invention rights they need now or may need as they enter new markets. 

For years, the importance of respecting invention rights has been ignored or swept under the rug. Many of the world’s leading technology companies are now beginning to recognize that patents are actually strategic assets that can be worth billions of dollars. This evolution in perspective is another crucial step toward an efficient market for inventions, and we are proud to have contributed to it. Large changes like these inevitably attract controversy. Although we may sometimes find  ourselves at the center of that controversy, that won’t weaken our commitment to building a fair and effective market for invention capital.

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