“Two of the inventors (D and N) have been producing close to one granted patent per each working day for the last decade … I am trying to remain neutral, but I cannot help but feel that there is something moderately ridiculous here about Intellectual Ventures.”
In part two of the pollution week, I analyzed patent US 8,127,002 (“Hypothesis development based on user and sensing device data”) and how it (perhaps) relates to monitoring of pollution. I described a software program that I might write, which would estimate the air pollution level at a certain place.
I found that, most likely, my software would not infringe on the patent, and the patent holder would not win in court. However, I would still pay the fee. Given that the patent is controlled by Intellectual Ventures, I would have too much to lose. Whatever the actual facts might be, the general perception is that IV is a large patent-litigation machine. Personally, I would not go against it.
Here’s the interesting question: how is IV able to do this?
There are a huge number of articles on IV (just Google the 300,000 hits given by “Innovation Ventures troll”) and I don’t really have anything to add at the general level. However, the details around this patent give some insights that I have not seen covered.
The ‘002 patent has 12 inventors. A Google Patents search shows that this same group has produced at least 120 patent applications between November 2008 and September 2011. (Past that date, any applications are still secret). About 20 have been granted so far.
There seem to be about four different key ideas behind all these patents, although there may be overlap (quite frankly, I am not going to waste my last years of youth wading through these in any detail). They are listed in the Appendix.
The patent family listing looks formidable, but in itself this does not necessarily imply anything unacceptable. Most of the patents are continuation patents, meaning that only small changes have been made to older ones.
Still, it is a bewildering list, and a bewildering list of inventors. I tried to see what information is publicly available on the inventors (mainly through Google Patents, searches, and the companies’ own web pages). The information is in Table 1. I could certainly find much more information if I wanted, but this quick search was enough for this purpose.
I chose to “anonymize” the inventors, because I want to understand the mechanism, and definitely not blame any individual. The actual identities can be reconstructed in any case.
The first column is the pseudonym of the inventor; the second and third columns show the number of granted an applied patents via Google Patents. The “From” column shows the first year from which I could find a patent application for the inventor. The pat/yr column gives the average number of granted patents per year the inventor has produced. The Company/Position information is somewhat unreliable, but these seem clear. Five of the inventors are affiliated with IV, three with Microsoft.
# Pats Apps From Pat/yr Company (Position)
A 27 84 2008 9 Microsoft (Manager?)
B 45 175 2001 4 Microsoft (Manager?)
C 1250 7430 2003 156 —
D 1700 8430 2004 243 IV, Founder
E 27 78 2006 5 —
F 477 4930 2003 60 IV (Inventor, Associate Professor)
G 1030 6120 1993 57 IV Senior managing inventor
H 4 426 2008 1 —
I 847 5760 2005 141 —
J 1050 5590 1993 58 IV (Senior inventor)
K 898 2600 2001 90 IV (UI Architect)
L 1180 5860 1999 98 —
M 32 137 2003 4 Microsoft (Director=
N 1760 7540 2003 220 ? Research Fellow?
Table 1. ‘002 patent inventor list
The pat/yr column is interesting. The numbers of patent applications do not contain very much information, since applications are often abandoned on the way and superseded by new ones. The number of patent applications is, however, an indication of how much money a company is willing to invest in filing these applications.
Getting a patent granted cannot be done for much less than 10,000 USD, even with a streamlined process. Someone invested tens of millions of dollars to get just D’s applications filed, for example. These figures certainly show evidence of a patenting machine.
Two of the inventors (D and N) have been producing close to one granted patent per each working day for the last decade.
An article in bizjournals.com provides some possible answers for why this particular group has done these collaborations.
“Here’s Microsoft’s full explanation, via spokesman Michael Marinello: “As you know, Microsoft is one of many investors in IV (Intellectual Ventures). Another part of our work with IV includes having our technologists sit in on ISF (Invention Science Fund) sponsored innovation sessions. ISF is part of IV. Several times per year ISF brings together thought leaders across industry and academia for these day long, forward ideation discussions. At times, a specific innovation is created as a result of these sessions. When that happens, it is customary for the individuals who have contributed to the innovation to be credited if a patent application is filed.”“
I am trying to remain neutral, but I cannot help but feel that there is something moderately ridiculous here about Intellectual Ventures. At least in the industries that I am familiar with, filing ten meaningful patents in a year would be considered a respectable but easily achievable figure, especially when working in a group. Thirty a year might definitely be achievable under special circumstances. But one a day?
And 120+ patent applications from what may have been just a one-day workshop?
One has to wonder what implications these kinds of numbers might have. (Subject of next posting).
APPENDIX : LISTS OF PATENTS
The group seems to be involved in several projects (possibly the result of several innovation workshops), which I simply do not have the time or health to go through. There are at least 120 patent applications that involve most or all of this group, quite possibly more.
Note that these are not independent patents; that is, many or most of them are continuation patents which add only small details to the previous ones.
Hypothesis testing (pollution-related patents with asterisks)
It is almost certain that there are additional patent applications in the queue, but I simply do not have time to look through them
“Systems and methods are described relating to accepting user input relating to a plurality of health service option selection factors; presenting a plurality of choices for at least one of the health service option selection factors; and presenting at least one outcome output based on a selection of at least one of the plurality of choices for at least one of the health service option selection factors.”
…. And at least 25 others
Personal target planning
“A computationally implemented method includes, but is not limited to: receiving a request for one or more personalized plans designed to facilitate an end user to achieve one or more target outcomes when one or more emulatable aspects indicated by the one or more personalized plans are emulated, the request identifying the one or more target outcomes; seeking one or more reported aspects that are relevant to achieving the one or more target outcomes in response to receiving the request; and developing the one or more personalized plans based, at least in part, on the seeking. In addition to the foregoing, other method aspects are described in the claims, drawings, and text forming a part of the present disclosure.”
… And at least 14 others
Detecting deviation from a template
No granted patents, but
http://www.google.com/patents/US20110055142 and five more.
A computationally implemented method includes, but is not limited to: detecting deviation from a compliant execution of a template by an end user, the template designed to facilitate the end user to achieve one or more target outcomes when one or more emulatable aspects included in the template are emulated, the one or more emulatable aspects being based on one or more relevant reported aspects of one or more source users that are relevant to achieving the one or more target outcomes; and executing one or more actions in response to the detecting of the deviation In addition to the foregoing, other method aspects are described in the claims, drawings, and text forming a part of the present disclosure