What RFK, Jr.’s VP Pick Could Mean for IP

“Shanahan’s vice-presidential candidacy is an opportunity to bring to national attention the crisis in intellectual property rights. That is unlikely given her documented ownership of hundreds of millions of dollars of Alphabet stock (Class B shares, says Forbes).”

Nicole ShanahanIndependent Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr’s Vice-Presidential running mate, Nicole Shanahan, a mercurial patent analyst, intellectual property lawyer and incidentally rich entrepreneur, is in the position to influence declining patent reliability and increasing copyright abuse. But will she?

This column is not intended to opine on Shanahan’s merits as an independent Vice-Presidential candidate, but to attempt to understand her motivation for running and its potential impact on IP rights, creators and assignees.

It is well-known that Shanahan was married for four years to Google founder Sergey Brin, before officially divorcing in 2022. She gave birth to their daughter in 2019 and their divorce separation, according to Forbes, left her with at least $400 million in Alphabet stock (2.6 million shares). Others speculate her post-divorce net worth could be more than $1 billion. Brin is currently the 10th richest person in the world, according to Bloomberg News and Forbes, with a net worth of $119 billion. According to financial disclosure documents over a three-year period, as reported in Wikipedia, Shanahan’s Bia-Echo Foundation’s sole donor was Sergey Brin. In 2020, Brin donated at least $23 million in shares of Alphabet. Since then, Shanahan has pledged $100 million.

Shanahan was said to have paid for the controversial Super Bowl ad for Kennedy that drew on his ties to his famous uncle, President John F. Kennedy, and father, Attorney General Robert Kennedy. The Kennedy family was not pleased.

More to the point, Shanahan worked as an analyst for RPX, the defensive patent aggregator, and was a research assistant for Colleen Chien, a known patent skeptic who coined the term patent assertion entity (PAE) and worked in the Obama administration. Chien formerly taught law at Santa Clara and has since joined the UC Berkeley Law School faculty.

Shanahan founded ClearAccess IP in Palo Alto in 2013, a financial technology company that provides a platform for financial valuations, analytics, and competitive intelligence for patents.

Her vice-presidential candidacy is an opportunity to bring to national attention to the crisis in intellectual property rights – but will it?

ClearAccess IP was acquired for an undisclosed sum in 2020 by Erich Spangenberg’s IPwe, an integrated patent management company “using AI to help the creators and owners of IP assets effectively develop, manage and transact patent-protected technology.”

IPwe initially partnered with IBM, but on March 5 filed for Chapter 7 liquidation. Spangenberg, who was regarded as successful but aggressive patent enforcer in the 1990s and 2000s, had the right idea for his for his IP-transacting block chain platform, but could not deliver on the promise without additional capital. It is unclear what IPwe paid for ClearAccess IP or if it has retained any asset value for creditors.

Shanahan’s split from Brin was reported in the Wall Street Journal as the result of a supposed fling with Elon Musk, which she vehemently denies. Shanahan is married to her third husband, Jacob Strumwasser, who currently serves as the vice president at Lightning Labs, which develops software that powers the Lightning Network for Bitcoin. She describes him, per People, as a former Wall Street Guy whom she met last year at the Burning Man Festival.

The Kennedy Ethos 

What is a patent analyst, IP lawyer, entrepreneur and ex-wife of Sergey Brin doing running with the independent candidate and potential Biden reelection spoiler?

Kennedy is a known anti-vaccination proponent, health policy skeptic and avid environmentalist. He has flirted with running as a Libertarian candidate. He has also dismissed the severity of the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol that left five dead and 174 police injured.

It is unclear if his beliefs are merely anti-establishment or extend to IP rights abuses. Some libertarians identify positively with the level-the-playing field exclusivity provided by some patents and copyrights, in theory a resource for independent inventors and creators. Others view IP rights as more government interference in the lives of businesses and people.

In terms of her motivation for running, Shanahan has stated that her daughter is on the autism spectrum and reports have indicated that Kennedy’s anti-vax position may appeal to her because of the frequently debunked junk-science linking autism with childhood vaccines.

There are far richer players with political aspirations that Kennedy might have called on. Shanahan is a Silicon Valley lawyer, an IP analyst and an academic fellow at CodeX, but a questionably successful tech entrepreneur. Her value to the ticket could be enhanced by her visible commitment to IP rights. Getting Kennedy and his followers to listen, I am afraid, will not be easy. The Biden administration’s misdirected pursuit of patent march-in rights is just the kind of issue on which she can score points and show her depth.

Shanahan’s vice-presidential candidacy is an opportunity to bring to national attention the crisis in intellectual property rights. That is unlikely given her documented ownership of hundreds of millions of dollars of Alphabet stock (Class B shares, says Forbes—a Class B share is a designation for a share class of a common or preferred stock that typically has strengthened voting rights or other benefits).

Shanahan is well-equipped to discuss the increasing lack of patent certainty since passage of the America Invents Act in 2011; the danger to SMEs and inventors by serial infringers; and the threat to innovation and creative expression caused by generative AI and other businesses, like ChatGPT and Bard (now Gemini), that relegate the content of their datasets to fair use when they should be paying for them and can well afford to. .

Reform Party VP candidate Pat Choate, who ran with Ross Perot in 1996 was an avowedly pro-patent economist, wrote a book titled, “Hot Properties: The Stealing of Ideas in the Age of Globalization.” It remains one of the clearer explanations about the foreign and domestic threat to IP rights and its impact. Perot and Choate garnered 8.4% of the popular vote.


The VP race may be an opportunity for Shanahan, who could eventually run locally in the Bay Area for Congress or for a state office. In tech-heavy California, companies like Google, Apple and Meta, liberal on social issues but more circumspect regarding IP ownership, can influence who gets elected. These and other IP-intensive businesses may wish to put their money on a candidate whose first-hand familiarity with IP rights can help assure their leadership.


Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com 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 IPWatchdog.com.

Join the Discussion

11 comments so far. Add my comment.

  • [Avatar for Anon]
    April 18, 2024 09:53 am

    S – please stop compounding YOUR error.

    That you feel anything is only YOUR feelings.

    Put the shovel down.

  • [Avatar for S]
    April 17, 2024 10:21 am


    It’s simply ridiculous to suggest that your initial comment was not intended to imply support for RFK Jr. AND AGAIN you do not want to say who you think controls both parties. I recall in a previous comment section where you called Biden a “puppet” and I asked who you thought his “puppet master” was. You did not respond to me then either. It’s frankly embarrassing. Seek help.

  • [Avatar for Anon]
    April 13, 2024 04:35 pm


    I need not take responsibility for your errors.

    This is not “deny” on my part. Quite in fact, it is “deny” on your part as you are refusing to take responsibility for your errors, even as they have been made clear to you.

  • [Avatar for S]
    April 12, 2024 09:18 pm


    Deny, deny, deny. If only you could take any responsibility over the comments you make online.

    Still waiting for you to explain what you mean exactly by uni-party. I suppose this confirms what I said previously. You are a leach. A fraud with no truly heald beliefs. I hope you have not taught any future generations to follow your path of moral and intellectual bankruptcy.

  • [Avatar for Anon]
    April 12, 2024 03:21 pm

    There is nothing cowardly or strange in pointing out that the error is yours, S.

    I plainly did say what I meant AND corrected you already for an error YOU made.

    You want to double down again?

    Hey, that’s your choice.

    You are wrong – again.

  • [Avatar for S]
    April 11, 2024 07:26 pm


    What a strange cowardly statement from a person bereft of honest morals. Of course that is the implication you intended, YOU said it. It is not a disagreement over what is in “error.” You said it. It is right there.

    You care not who is behind it?! HAVE YOU NO BACKBONE? I defy you to say what you mean and own it like a human being who believes in his own existence. I have seen you rave about how Biden is a puppet, about the corrupt Judges who want nothing more than to destroy the thing you love. Now is the time to own up to these accusations. WHO is the puppet master? WHO is the engineer behind all of the misfortune you see in the world? Say it or forever admit that you are a leach, sucking the blood of whatever opinions happens to benefit you in the here and now. Say it or condemn yourself to the life of a cretinous shyster, doomed to lurk in the dark of comment sections, turning your face away from the sun.


  • [Avatar for Anon]
    April 11, 2024 01:06 pm

    S – no backpedaling and I find it odd that you seem to need to want to paint my position as somehow being in error when it is not.

    YOU may be inferring in error – that is different than my implications.

    As to additional uni-party, I care not “who” is behind it, as it is quite clear that there are desires that do NOT distinguish between the “R” and the “D” (and given how polarized the parties ARE on many points, that alone should wave a red flag for you.

  • [Avatar for S]
    April 11, 2024 12:26 pm

    Hey Anon,

    I appreciate your backpedaling but you posted that comment underneath an article discussing the candidacy of RFK Jr., lamenting the lack of third-party choices. I agree with the need for more political party choices, but the obvious implications of your comment are, well, obvious.

    Yes, I am aware of corporate and personal financial interests driving political decisions in D.C. But there is obviously real differences between democrats and republicans on several issues (abortion, guns, taxes, to name a few). So I am just interested in who you think is behind this uni-party and what its goals are.

  • [Avatar for Anon]
    April 11, 2024 11:44 am

    My post had nothing to do with the particulars of THIS third party candidate.

    Elaborate on uni-party…? What is there to elaborate upon? Are you not aware of the ‘swamp’ of entrenched interests in Washington D.C.?

  • [Avatar for S]
    April 11, 2024 10:34 am


    Come on, you can’t be that fanatical. Even if you love patents and innovation you HAVE to see the problem with electing vaccine skeptics.

    Also, could you elaborate more on your theory of uni-party control?

  • [Avatar for Anon]
    April 10, 2024 01:05 pm

    Interesting – but sadly, I believe that we as a nation as not yet ready to break away from the two-party control (some will, perhaps more than a little correctly insist on uni-party control) of our government.

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