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Intellectual Ventures sues Motorola over patents

The firm, which claims to invest in inventions, says that Motorola Mobility is violating a host of its patents and it's seeking damages because of it.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

Intellectual Ventures, a controversial patent-acquisition firm founded by former Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold, is suing Motorola Mobility for patent infringement.

The suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, claims Motorola Mobility refuses to sign a licensing deal with Intellectual Ventures and thus violates several patents Intellectual Ventures holds related to a range of technologies, including one for a "file transfer system," and another that relates to "illumination device and image projection apparatus comprising the device." Intellectual Ventures has also taken aim at Motorola for allegedly violating a patent it holds on a "portable computer, communication and entertainment device with central processor carried in a detachable handset."

All Things Digital was first to report on the lawsuit.

Intellectual Ventures has initiated its fair share of patent-infringement cases. The company in December filed three lawsuits against nine companies across the security, memory, and chip markets.

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Unlike the companies it sues, Intellectual Ventures does not actually develop products. Instead, the firm acquires patents and then licenses them to vendors. In its lawsuit against Motorola, Intellectual Ventures says it currently holds more than 35,000 patents. All told, the company has spent $400 million for the patents it holds and has been able to generate more than $2 billion in licensing fees.

Although the technique has proven profitable, Intellectual Ventures has been criticized by folks who say that the company is a "patent threat." However, Myhrvold has a much different take on his company's business. Last year, he wrote in the Harvard Business Review that his firm's business model will make the world a better place.

"If we and firms like us succeed," he said, "the invention capital system will turbocharge technological progress, create many more new businesses, and change the world for the better."

But there's more to Intellectual Ventures' latest lawsuit than a simple attempt on the company's part to generate more revenue from patents it holds. In December, after suing semiconductor company Xilinx, a partial list of the financial backers that have provided the patent company with the capital it needs to buy intellectual property was revealed. According to PaidContent, which obtained the information, included in that list was Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Yahoo, and perhaps most important for this lawsuit, Google.

Earlier this year, Google announced that it planned to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. Although that deal is not completed, Intellectual Ventures' lawsuit--if it continues past when the Google deal is expected to be approved by regulators--could mean the patent firm is suing one of its reported backers.

Google did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.

If Intellectual Ventures wins its lawsuit, the company is asking the court for attorneys fees and damages, as well as an order saying Motorola Mobility can no longer engage in what the firm says is patent infringement.

Motorola Mobility did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.