Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures

The current issue of BusinessWeek has a cover piece on ex-Microsoft guy Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures. In essence, the group plays the role of innovation think tank and patent vacuum, and it is unsurprisingly controversial. Critics call it a patent troll, while fans applaud the idea of given intellectual property markets more liquidity.

Will it work? I think Myhrvold’s on to something, but as someone who spends a lot of time in early-stage IP this is long-cycle stuff. Raising private capital in IP with an expectation of near-term profits is optimistics at best, as shown IV’s inability six years after fund-raising to show a return. What’s more, Myhrvold’s own uneven innovation performance at Microsoft Research gives me pause for concern.