Patent Mass Aggregators: The Giants Among Us

The patent world is quietly undergoing a change of seismic proportions. In a few short years, a handful of entities have amassed vast treasuries of patents on an unprecedented scale. To give some sense of the magnitude of this change, our research shows that in a little more than five years, the most massive of these has accumulated 30,000-60,000 patents worldwide, which would make it the 5th largest patent portfolio of any domestic US company and the 15th largest of any company in the world.

Although size is important in understanding the nature of the shift, size alone is not the issue. It is also the method of organization and the types of activities that are causing a paradigm shift in the world of patents and innovation.

These entities, which we call mass aggregators, do not engage in the manufacturing of products nor do they conduct much research. Rather, they pursue other goals of interest to their founders and investors. Non-practicing entities have been around the patent world for some time, and in the past, they have fallen into two broad categories. The first category includes universities and research laboratories, which tend to have scholars engaged in basic research and license out inventions rather than manufacturing products on their own. The second category includes individuals or small groups who purchase patents to assert them against existing, successful products. Those in the second category have been described colloquially as “trolls,” which appears to be a reference to the children’s tale of the three billy goats who must pay a toll to the troll waiting under the bridge if they wish to pass. Troll activity is generally reviled by operating companies as falling somewhere between extortion and a drag on innovation. In particular, many believe that patent trolls often extract a disproportionate return, far beyond the value that their patented invention adds to the commercial product, if it adds at all.

The new mass aggregator, however, is an entirely different beast. To begin with, funding sources for mass aggregators include some very successful and respectable organizations, including manufacturing companies such as Apple, eBay, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Nokia, and Sony, as well as academic institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania and Notre Dame, and other entities such as the World Bank and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Nations such as China, France, South Korea, and Taiwan even have their own mass aggregators to varying degrees.

Moreover, the acquisition appetites and patent supply sources are quite interesting. Mass aggregators may have portfolios that range across vastly different areas of innovation from computers to telecommunications to biomedicine to nanotechnology. In some of the acquisition activity, mass aggregators purchase large chunks, and even the majority, of an operating company’s patents and patent applications. They typically pay cash up front, as well as a share of any future profits generated from asserting the patents against anyone other than the selling manufacturer. Mass aggregators have engaged in other unusual acquisition approaches as well, including purportedly purchasing the rights to all future inventions by researchers at universities in developing countries. Other acquisition approaches purportedly include targeted purchases of patents that are of particular interest to the mass aggregators’ investors.

The types of returns promised to investors and the types of benefits offered to participants are also quite different from garden-variety non-practicing entities, as are some of the tactics used in organizing the entities and in asserting the patents. Finally, the scale itself is simply mind-boggling. Mass aggregators operate on a scale and at a level of sophistication and complexity that would have been unimaginable a decade ago. They have taken the prototype strategies pioneered by a prior generation of non-practicing entities and changed them into some of the cleverest strategies yet seen in the intellectual property rights field.

One of these clever aggregators is Intellectual Ventures.  The scope of Intellectual Ventures’ activities is so vast that it is difficult to contemplate the reach of the company. It has invested in innovations and technologies across a broad spectrum of industries—everything from computer hardware to biomedicine to consumer electronics to nanotechnology. In more than 1,000 transactions, by our count, the company has acquired inventions and related intellectual property from individual inventors, corporations of all sizes, governments, research laboratories, and universities.

Getting a handle on the scope and activities of an entity as secretive as Intellectual Ventures is not easy. The structure of the Intellectual Ventures network of operations makes it tremendously difficult to detect and trace the company’s activities. Although Intellectual Ventures has never divulged the precise nature and extent of its portfolio, the company reported in June 2011 that it holds some 35,000 “invention assets.”

Intellectual Ventures’ success in raising capital has led to the creation of a number of smaller versions of the company. For example, Acacia Research Corporation is the largest publicly traded patent-licensing company, and has executed more than 1,000 license agreements across 104 of technology licensing programs. Another similar company, RPX, has spent over $300 million acquiring patents and controls them via several funds, such as RPX-LV Acquisition LLC and RPX-NW Acquisition LLC. However, while RPX licenses or buys patents for its current members, it does not always retain rights to these patents and acknowledges that the patents could later be used by other potentially litigious owners to bring suits against companies that were not members of RPX at the time in which it engaged in those licenses.

The patent world is poised to undergo a change of astounding proportions. A system that has operated such that the vast majority of patents bring little or no return is shifting to a system in which a substantial number of patents will become traded and monetized, largely through a system of mass aggregators. The giants among us are undoubtedly changing the patent world. The question that remains is how.

One could argue that mass aggregators could potentially have positive effects. Mass aggregators might potentially ensure that the forgotten inventor receives the compensation due or could serve as a middleman to connect inventors with capital and expertise. Mass aggregators could also serve as litigation defense funds, providing Just-in-Time patenting and creating a powerful weapon stream that will deter troublesome infringement suits. Mass aggregators may also reduce troll activity by soaking up the supply of monetizable patents. The question, however, is whether the cure is worse than the disease.

In particular, the same market characteristics that have led to the rise of troll activity are likely to plague the activities of mass aggregators as well. Without changing the basic incentive structures of the patent system, mass aggregation will be no better than the current patent system at rewarding the deserving inventor and greasing the wheels of innovation while protecting diligent producing companies. Moreover, the activity of mass aggregation brings its own potential harms. Rather than contributing technological innovations, mass aggregators operate as a tax on current production, burdening existing products and potentially reducing future innovation and productivity. In addition, characteristics of the market for patent monetization make it an excellent vehicle for anticompetitive behavior, including horizontal collusion and single firm or multi-firm behavior that raises rivals’ costs. Most important, the basic business model of mass aggregation is troubling. The successful aggregator is likely to be the one that frightens the greatest number of companies in the most terrifying way. This may not be an activity that society wants to encourage.

These and other concerns suggest that mass aggregators and the market for patent monetization should not be allowed to flourish unchecked. The burgeoning market must be properly monitored, regulated, and restricted so that the considerable risks associated with this activity may be fully contemplated and cabined.

For more in depth treatment of this topic please see our recently published law review article The Giants Among Us, 012 Stan. Tech. L. Rev. 1 (January 2012).


Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author as of the time of publication and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of

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20 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Yehoshua Ya'acov]
    Yehoshua Ya’acov
    March 23, 2012 10:59 am

    Shalom Robin and Tom:

    Here is something to think about and possibly write about, it’s Israel Inc’s STRATEGY for the future, TODAY.

    Why I am writing you, is we (Sarah and I) want to partner, with you, with our considerable IP achievements(s) as we act to NOW monetize them. We were for many years an ‘IP’ R&D “skunk work (independent small research effort),” that of recent NOW enjoys a web based growing global RECOGNITION, of our significant ‘IP’ achievements, in delivering NEW, the ‘IP’ First Principle science, and technology(s) of man’s redemptive SOLUTION(s). Today we’re operating in Jerusalem, while we’re, self branding on the web, our MacroTech(sm)’s “Receiving, to give and the Integration of Labor,” macro solutions, in becoming known as “Israel Incorporated,” as some now believe we are the largest IP Aggregator in the world, still largely held as “trade secrets.”

    This derives form a few million(s) of investment over many years and lots of sustained hard work, before and since I moved, here in 1987. Though most significant, are the many Blessings we’ve RECEIVED, since here; as we’ve struck the “IP Mother Load.” And so we are NOW executing, our plan, as the nation’s “MASS, IP Aggregator,” based on our unique “world class” Intellectual Property-IP PORTFOLIO. And although this was/is opposed by its COVERT communists led by Peres we’ve endured its many years of ATTACKS. While the “mass street protests” of our youth, of recent, confirm their awakening, to the corruption(s) of the Peres’ ideology, of COLLLECTIVAIZATION of the land, with ALL its COVERT police state and scripted juridical system extremes of theft and abuse(s), in the name of democracy. As NOW hundreds of thousands, here and in our Diaspora, as includes our religious community(s), NOW seek to join us, in relation to our IP portfolio’s aggregator activities (as below), within its NEW organizational community, that is our HUMANOMICS(sm) modality, that NOW replaces Zionism COLLAPSE; with its unique International CONTENT’S achievements, as comprise our unique PORTFOLIO of invention assets.

    This regional and global movement, is today what COGNITIVELY leads Israel; while experts believe our IP Portfolio is worth, in an IPO, a probable “market cap” of 100 billion plus, for its IP inventions assets. Perhaps? And perhaps NOT, and perhaps more? While it’s to be NOTED that upon arriving in Israel, in 1987, this initiative, was met with a considerable skepticism, and that masked a COVERT ideological violence, then and since, as conspired with its COVERT methods in weaponizing both secular and religious segment of society, AGAINST it, and us, with its cunning and extreme ideological obstruction(s), and ubiquitous blocking. As yes, we were then, and since, significantly ahead of our time(s); and although that has NOW changed, it’s really NOT nearly enough; as ONLY when Peres and his ideology’s COVERT communist infrastructure is ended and uprooted, can and will Israel be RESTORED.

    Our vehicle’s MacroTech-sm (MTI) owns the exclusive worldwide ‘IP’ development rights, of the ‘IP’ that is owned by MTI’s, US Trust, the “L ‘O’ Leahcim Trust, as AGAIN owns MacroTech(sm), as is a 501 3 c, in New York State, in America; its name means “brotherhood,” in Hebrew. It holds the “main/head” patentable invention asset(s) RIGHTS of its HUMANONMICS(sm). Including its central organizing principle that is “Receiving, go give,” and its NEW economic paradigm model the “Integration of Labor,” as are TODAY the “cutting edge” NEW science and technology, for NOW transforming the post COLLAPSE of East and West systems. In combination, as HUMANOMCIS(sm) they are the nation of Israel and the world’s NEW “global organizational” community, that replaces not only Zionism, but as well as ALL the ME region’s “despots” and too their bankrupt ideologies, as well their “police states.” This is since it is NOW focused, on our together regionally realizing, first here in Israel, next in the region, then in the US and the G-20, its NEW economic paradigm and its NOW emergent NEW Global Technologic Infrastructure-GTI, based on HUMANOMICS(sm) and its new macro economic model of wealth creation and sharing AGAIN the Integration of labor.

    This will NOW, with eventual full participation (as above and below, in counterpart), derivatively further generate “invention assets,” that are estimated to already exceed 100K more IP invention assets, that will rapidly double and triple, with timely sound development and execution, through our emergent regional “development network(s).” While our emerging HUMANOMICS(sm) “organizational community(s),” includes our Diaspora, as is itself believed to possess, another150K in “invention assets,” it will “monetize” for them, with its “individual capitalism” modalities of participation. This with our 100K existing IP invention assets = 250K making us the global leader, as is likely to remain so; as in Israel, we’re NOW seeing ever increasing unique levels of IP creativity, on an unprecedented scale, from this, our unique science based “IP Aggregator” convergence STARTEGY activities will prosper greatly, as that which is now driving world Jewry’s secular humanism and traditional spiritualism, CONVERGENCE; as is supported by most ALL of our people and too our developer participants, and even in other nations and cultures, that in the initial year(s) ahead, is expected to double and triple the number of our shared invention assets. How?

    Through our Trust’s wholly owned “development vehicle,” MTI(sm) that is, by design, Israel’s New MASS ‘IP’ Aggregator, that in redemption is NOW the emergent NEW Social Science, ‘IP’ that in turn drives and sustains, an unprecedented an MASSIVE volitional reallocation of world capital market(s) assets, from the G-20, to the ME Region, and most importantly in turn to the LDCs. Whose development(s) is NOW focused on its NEW psychology, behavioral, cognitive and economic sciences, as are based on its NEW model and modality(s), that redefines human IDENTITY, in man’s redemption and also his/her macro “wealth creation,” modalities, with its NEW “Integration of Labor(sm),” as NOW replaces the old “division of labor,” since this NOW develops and delivers its NEW “Individual capitalism.” While within its NEW psychology, this now replaces Freud, and most post Freudian psychology, with its UNIQUE New “Identity Resolution-IR psychology, as NOW prepares people, to RECEIVE. This too we are NOW developing, in Israel as is especially weak in this discipline, and in the USA and we will license it globally, as it’s to be used, importantly, in our developing its NEW world class Global Technologic Infrastructure-GTI model(s), comprised of the Integration of Labor’s unique NEW world economy’s major culture and language specific sub-models, of NEW Network Services-NS, NEW Systems Integration-SI, NEW Natural Intelligence-NI (vastly superior to Artificial Intelligence-AI technology) and Sustainable Human Development-SDH, based on Identity Resolution.

    This NEW basic and applied science(s), and technology revolution, in turn derives from its embedded “secret(s) IP” matrix translators, in the New areas of “Receiving, to give(sm),” in general, and its NEW post Freudian Psychology, whose primary NEW technology is “Identity Resolution-IR, as is expected to drive the creation realization and embodiment(s), of another 500K NEW invention assets.” ALL funded by MTI’s emergent own ‘IM’ FUNDS managed by its Investment Management-IM function(s). While MTI hosts its own “developers network(s),” ALL focused on APPS in support of its central NEW economic paradigm the “Integration of Labor(sm),” and too NEW post Freudian psychology and technology of “Identity Resolution-IR. While development of its “energy function of INFORMATION(sm),” NEW science and technology, will probably partner with Exxon/Mobile, as is already proposed, with the project parts we own.

    While we also own the NEW post planar computer design logic and model(s) of D/Binary, as we’ll probably partner its development with IBM, as is also already proposed to Jenny its CEO. Our Trust’s IP assets are expertly valued by David Rockefeller, Sr. and others, to TODAY be worth, in excess of 100 billion in “market cap,” that we will NOW be monetize; with or without Intellectual Ventures-IV although we concur that with the proper and timely IV willingness, to “strategically partner,” it would provide, beyond the ways and means, the expertise to accelerate our to the “to market process.” In particular, I’m 70 in June, thank G-d, and so we’re focused on a scaled merger, if possible that effects the requisite “technology transfer,” as this is the STARETEGY that we have in mind, although it by no means the ONLY strategy; though it is the one, wherein a post deal, combined organization as is likely would emerge, it would probably invite Yehoshua as its non-executive Chairman, while you Nathan would be the merged IV and MacroTech(sm), CEO, this would certainly and most decidedly overcome the specious ‘IV troll narrative,’ as is certainly NOT helpful, nor true from our research(s).

    As for us, it’s NOW in reduction first an issue(s) of “make buy” to accelerate our development process, as it is the one first and foremost, in need, to be bridged, by Israel, the region and America, as will direct and lead, our combined access to the requisite IP liquidity, as is scaled and thus suitable to the STRATEGIC partnering needs, to accelerate scaled development, while affording us the NOW required levels of IP protection(s), as addresses and SOLVES “the invention gap,” between “our existing invention rights, and the invention rights, we strategically and tactically require TODAY to execute.” As this to is a priority “make buy decision,” as is essential to our together NOW building MacroTech(sm), as the NEW post Google, Microsoft and Apple vehicle, in Israel, that transforms the nation and the region, and this is WHY it is so significant and desirable a challenge; as it’s the one we can ONLY meet, together. WHY?

    HUAMNAOMICS(sm) defines the problem, as WAS man’s exile. While it confirms its end, with the global COLLAPSE of the “local reality,” of WHAT WAS man’s exile of mind and of authentic identity that was man’s FALSE identity and modality of life. While it next defines, the ONLY SOLUTION that provides its NEW, HUMANOMICS(sm) modality; as Now converges the post COLLAPSE of East and West ideologies, systems, economies and modalities. Within its NEW central organizing principle that is Receiving, to give and its NEW economic paradigm the Integration of Labor as NOW transforms man and mankind and too the world’s economy. This and ONLY this, NOW transform Israel, confirming exile’s end, Zionism’s COLLAPSE, and too the end of occupation, with its required compensation for theft and murder, in the name of political Zionism as was mere political nationalism. As reveals and confirms that the ONLY way forward to Peace is compensation and restoration. Supported by real disarmament led by Israel seeking securing and INHABITING a New NWFZ are in the Middle East in Peace with Lebanon, Syria and Iran participation. As HUMANOMICS(sm) all agree, NOW replaces Zionism exclusionary FALSE Liberation Theology, as was political Zionism’s civil religion, as WAS a FALSE Liberation Theology and that is WHY it COLLAPSED.

    Since HUMANOMICS(sm) is redemption’s NEW enduring model and modality of man’s redemption, this is confirmed in the fact that it is the ONLY vision and CONTENT that all recognize and accept NOW makes and sustain the Peace, as it replaces Zionism’s collapse, as is supported by the religious and secular. This is since it makes redundant BSD, terrorism and war. WHY? It moves the secular from modernity to post modernity’s NEW individual capitalism’s participation right(s) for ALL. While it move the religious from exile, to redemption’s individual capitalism, with its equal participation right(s). While it moves the Palestinians from occupation, to post the occupation era, with its full participation rights in individual capitalism, with full and equal participation, for ALL.

    Our love and best wishes to ALL and to Warren, Bill and Melinda, our Blessed partners in philanthropy, NOW let us together bring into this exciting enterprise of building and realizing Israel and mankind’s future, the Blessed couple WHO so love Israel, Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, as in this, Sarah and I believe, we ALL concur in the afore comprehensive COGNITIVE vision, and its delivery’s CONTENT and modalities.

    And so IN FOCUS our shared goal, is to volitionally transfer a trillion dollars of NEWLY created wealth, form the G-20, to the LDCs, as will probably redefine “sustainable human development,” on a global scale, as is TODAY very sorely needed and this too is the real redemption.

    Thank you, for your help interest and support TODAY, in your and our shared commitment. For which YOU are Blessed greatly, in “Receiving, to give.” Amen.

    Blessings, Yehoshua Ya’acov

  • [Avatar for Yehoshua Ya'acov]
    Yehoshua Ya’acov
    March 16, 2012 09:32 am

    WHY, is “first principle science” NOT patentable? It is because certain first principle science, though NOT a “law of nature,” in IP law it generally, is treated it as such. While in economics, it’s believed by some, the exception to this general heruistic, and this is believed to be WRONG. And so, as the paradigmist of economics NEW first principle of “wealth creation,” that is the “Integration of Labor(sm),” that NOW REPLACES “division of labor,” it should be treated in IP law, as a “law of nature,” and as such, NOT protected by IP law, in whole or it part(s). WHAT do you think? Tky, yy

  • [Avatar for Roland]
    February 13, 2012 09:40 am

    Blind Dogma

    “it should be a mandatory assumption that patents are read.” I thought this was effectively the case?

    I understand what you are saying; however, in this specific case at the time the patent was awarded the inventor was an employee of UC. From my experience scientists and universities like to trumpet their discoveries and first’s – sometimes years ahead of getting around to publishing the research in relevant journals… Hence if UC/Eolas actually thought they had a valid claim over the web then it would of made sense for them to have shouted about it at the time when the web was very much in the political and public eye.

  • [Avatar for Blind Dogma]
    Blind Dogma
    February 13, 2012 09:19 am


    One of the joys of owning property is to do with it as one sees fit. I openly resist any sense of Nanny-State dictating what someone has to do with their property. In this manner, our views of what is “reasonable” may differ radically, but I will take the tried and true US version, thank you vey much. So to answer your “whether ther should,” I reply a resounding “NO.”

    But I will tell you what “should be,” and it likewise resists what you deem as “odd.” Patents are published and are their for all to see. If I so wish for the market to develop around what is clearly my very much public property, I can wait as long as I damm well please. It’s not like you cannot find out about my property. I would even daresay that my action is sanctioned by the government in that if you don’t even bother looking, than you are the fool for not taking advantage of the very reason the patent office exists (the promotion – as in spread – of knowledge). To me, it should be a mandatory assumption that patents are read. If there is a Quid Pro Quo and the public ignores the Quo, shame on them.

  • [Avatar for Roland]
    February 13, 2012 06:27 am

    Blind Dogma,

    I am aware that there is currently no requirement for a patent holder to take any real action (other than to pay the patent registration maintenance fee’s), this specific case to me raises the discussion point as to whether there should (I’m coming at this more from consideration of the UK’s “reasonableness” test rather than a pure black-and-white absolutist viewpoint).

    One of the odd aspects of this case is why Eolas (and UC) decided to wait until comparatively late in the day to assert their patent claims instead of loudly proclaiming their primacy as the inventors of the “interactive-web” and holders of a pending US patent from the outset in 1994; particularly given the level and pace of concurrent web development and mass market adoption.

    Aside: Since I last posted, the Texas jury have struck down Eolas patent claims

  • [Avatar for Blind Dogma]
    Blind Dogma
    February 10, 2012 11:05 am


    have done nothing to promote a patent or to develop it

    If you were to understand patent law, you would understand that such is not required by the applicant. These are extra-legal requirements you are inventing out of thin air. They simply do not exist.

    Understanding the actual Quid Pro Quo would make a huge difference in your position.

  • [Avatar for Roland]
    February 10, 2012 10:27 am

    passerby #13,

    Definitely interesting and worth watching.

    Puts a different twist on “prior user rights” by raising the question as to what rights should a patent holder have when they have done nothing to promote a patent or to develop it and wait years before taking infringement action. Also throws a spanner in the arguments put forward by those who say that strong IP encourages innovation etc. as it is clear that this forgotten patent has had no impact whatsoever on the development of the web. However, they are good example of the sort of problems we can expect to see more of as the USPTO continues to effectively issue patents without proper scrutiny, leaving it to the courts to determine validity etc..

    I agree it is tempting to label Eolas a ‘troll’ but it would seem that they don’t fit the generally accepted profile as from the reports they only have a couple of patents and these are also their own.

    Definitely will be interesting to see what Gene and other IP professionals have to make of this one.

  • [Avatar for passerby]
    February 9, 2012 03:55 pm


    This article about a new Eolas technologies case came to me off of facebook, and I was hoping to see you weigh in on the case somewhere.

    I’m unsure what to make of this one as of yet, (admittedly, I’ve yet to check out the first Eolas Technologies case, so i’m unsure of the merits here). My gut instinct is screaming “TROLL”, but I was hoping to see a knowledgeable patent news junkie weigh in on the matter before I adopt a real opinion. I know you’re no patent troll fan, but the university connections in this case remind me that you’ve exempted universities from your definition of patent trolls in the past. Thanks

  • [Avatar for Anon]
    February 7, 2012 08:19 pm

    The fact that there are patents that are not being used by the inventors is a sign that patents are being granted that are too obvious


    This is clearly not a legal thought. I struggle with how to even begin to reply when faced with such a vacuum of understanding.

  • [Avatar for Anon]
    February 7, 2012 08:17 pm

    what is to prevent them from becoming overly mercenary in the future? Like corporations that get very large and less creative, they might just opt for the money, and thereby possibly squelch future innovation.

    By definition, any such action to be less creative would be directly destructive to their business plan.

    A better (or at least more interesting question) would be the opposite – what if we have runaway innovation?

  • [Avatar for Doug Webb]
    Doug Webb
    February 7, 2012 07:22 pm

    The fact that there are patents that are not being used by the inventors is a sign that patents are being granted that are too obvious. The result of the low bar for patents is that any innovation that succeeds is attacked for patent infringement by parasitic organizations. Patent aggregators are the last nail in the coffin of American innovation. I have an idea that would make a good product but I know I would be attacked if I succeed so I’d rather not bother with all the hassle. I am not alone and it is a bleak future that patents are painting.

  • [Avatar for Stan E. Delo]
    Stan E. Delo
    February 7, 2012 05:01 pm


    Well done to rephrase the question from a different perspective. What comes to mind for me in an economic sense is that large aggregators will need to make a profit, of course, so they are sort of like retailer middle men. On the other hand though, their resources might bring things to market much more quickly, or even create whole new markets where none might have existed if the inventors had to try to monetize their inventions themselves. A chicken or egg sort of question I suppose.

    Folks just getting started might be very willing to buy into a scenario like that, at least until they can afford to do it for themselves once they have operating capital of their own available. The whole concept of very large aggregators is somewhat worrisome to me though, as there is no way to apply an anti-trust sort of mechanism like Ron Hilton is very aptly suggesting just yet. Even if they are beneficial initially as IV seems to have been in the past, what is to prevent them from becoming overly mercenary in the future? Like corporations that get very large and less creative, they might just opt for the money, and thereby possibly squelch future innovation.

    It might be interesting to try to talk to Nathan M. with a pending patent application in hand, and see what he or whomever he might refer me to might have to say in the matter.


  • [Avatar for American Cowboy]
    American Cowboy
    February 7, 2012 02:19 pm

    Ron calls for reinvigorated antitrust enforcement should be extended to a call to break up the banks that are too big to fail. If they are that darned big, they have too much market power and should be broken up. Reverting to the Glass-Stegall standard would be about right.

    And while we are pointing out the ills of monopoly, recall that when government does something, it monopolizes, so it usually has all of economic negatives of a monopoly. That is even more the case when the Federal government takes over state functions and eliminates even the state-to-state competition.

  • [Avatar for Ron Hilton]
    Ron Hilton
    February 7, 2012 01:12 pm

    Antitrust reform and reinvigorated enforcement is what is needed to hold the “giants” of all types in check. The problem with current antitrust law is that it looks only at the economy that is, not the economy that could be if innovation were allowed to flourish. Thus, a statute is needed that makes suppression of innovation an antitrust violation. And the burden of proof needs to be put on a par with that of patent infringement, to create a level field for litigation.

  • [Avatar for Anon]
    February 7, 2012 11:50 am


    I have read the article and I will disagree with you on the “Troll” bashing aspects.

    This could have been a neutral article, or an expose article on the lengths (and depths) that Intellectual Ventures has gone to hide its assets and or obscure their business plan, but not both.

    There is far too much of a subjective viewpoint infused in the article that barely covers a “patents are bad because they are come by too easily” mindset. Dale’s point is but one of many.

    I grant the authors the right to express their viewpoint, just as I express my viewpoint of their work product. To me, this is less than stellar because of the obvious bias. Any question presented is pre-loaded. There is value in raising questions – I just don’t like the taint that accompanies those questions in this article.

  • [Avatar for Dale B. Halling]
    Dale B. Halling
    February 7, 2012 11:32 am

    “Rather than contributing technological innovations, mass aggregators operate as a tax on current production, burdening existing products and potentially reducing future innovation and productivity.” Property rights do not act as a TAX on current production – current production based on theft of IP acts as a tax on innovation. Every economic study that has tried to characterize whether inventors and their companies receive too much or too little return to get the “optimum” amount of new inventions for the fastest economic growth, shows that inventors are under compensated. While aggregators are not inventors (generally), the more effective they are at monetizing inventions the more they will pay inventors for their patents.

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    February 7, 2012 11:00 am


    Acacia Research is a publicly traded company already, so at least one of the mass aggregators does provide a vehicle for direct investment. See:

    I hear what you are saying about possible VC capital. I don’t think any of the aggregators are doing that, although I do know that Intellectual Ventures will purchase patent portfolios and then pay inventors to stay engaged as they seek to continue to milk the invention for as many patent applications as possible. I don’t know whether they buy the patents and then pay an additional fee for X years of cooperation to further develop, or if it is all a part of the purchase price and the inventors agree to continue to remain engaged. I suspect the deal is a bit different each time depending on the unique circumstances.


  • [Avatar for Roland]
    February 7, 2012 10:41 am

    In my reading a question arises in that are the new mass aggregators the first of a new wave of investment vehicles? For example from what has been published about Intellectual Ventures they have arranged their portfolio in to a set of funds. To me it is only a small step to enabling direct investment etc in these funds/portfolios by the wider financial market; enabling joe public to hold shares/units in specific portfolios.

    The follow up question is whether this could lead to the creation of a patent venture capital market, where an inventor can seek assistance in obtaining a patent. Obviously the returns to the inventor are likely to be smaller and hence potentially making their business less attractive to traditional business startup investors.

    I agree with Gene, it is worth acknowledging the significant change that has and is occurring in the marketplace and in so doing enable discussion.

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    February 7, 2012 09:09 am


    I wouldn’t say this is a troll bashing article. This and the longer associated law review article lay out the case of mass aggregators and question whether this is a good thing. There is no claim that these folks are bad actors, like some of the truly egregious patent trolls out there. Rather, the question is whether it is a good thing to have or allow mass aggregation of patent rights.

    I agree with you that patents are property rights and can be alienated. However, it is worthwhile in my opinion to at least raise the question and acknowledge the obvious — the marketplace has significantly changed.

    For example, with copyright infringement there is great discussion about whether to make it more difficult to engage in online piracy. There is no requirement under the law that copyright holders police their creations, and in fact there is no viable way that most copyright owners could police their own rights. Even the global conglomerates have difficulty; witness the massive piracy in the movie industry. So the evolution of the marketplace really demands a change in the law otherwise we will wind up with less creation.

    Compare this with the mass aggregators. The phenomenon is relatively new and there is great concern within many circles in the industry. Giant companies that control tens of thousands of patents and seek licensing payments from everyone is certainly different.

    Personally, I think there is nothing wrong with mass aggregators, but they will leave their mark on the patent community. The laws will change (and have changed already) to make it easier to challenge patents, which is not a good thing if you ask me. To the extent the aggregators have a long term positive impact it will likely be because inventors are capable of getting rewarded through selling rights, and the companies who must pay many licensing fees will demand a better functioning Patent Office.


  • [Avatar for Anon]
    February 6, 2012 10:05 pm

    Rather than contributing technological innovations, mass aggregators operate as a tax on current production, burdening existing products and potentially reducing future innovation and productivity

    Sounds like more of the same “Troll” bashing.

    As I posted on the last “troll” bashing article of :

    Anon January 3rd, 2012 7:30 am

    Last I checked, patents were still considered property, fully capable of alienation.

    Exactly who is this story an indictment of, that it often seems to take a certain heft for companies to give serious consideration to patent holders? I am (uncomfortably) reminded of the genesis of the “Troll” term, a perjorative created by the larger corporations that actually gave birth to the phenomenom by its own actions.

    I find it still hard for me to feel sorry for those who still make their bed, but don’t want to sleep in it.