The complaints about companies that own large numbers of patents are well known by now; the general opinion is that owning too many patents makes you a stifler of innovation as it becomes expensive for companies that want to use your patents to create new products. But companies that do not primarily make products who own large numbers of patents are even more heavily criticized.
Intellectual ventures — a firm that devotes its funds to purchasing patents, and is one of the top five patent owners in the U.S. — has been one of those companies in the spotlight for gobbling up patents and then pursuing violators of them aggressively. While this practice is known as patent trolling, and is generally frowned upon by analysts as it is believed to stifle innovation, Reuters reports that Intellectual Ventures does not admit to patent trolling. In fact, the company claims to be a promoter of innovation, a champion of small companies, and only pursues patent litigation when necessary and does not chase excessive intellectual property cases. Indeed, the company provided details in December 2013 on 82 percent of its patents — which amounts to 33,000 of its 40,000 patents.
So naturally heads turn as Intellectual Ventures releases the news that it has cut 5 percent of its global staff, and restructured its corporate hierarchy by “consolidating” positions.
Company spokeswoman Katherine Clouse said in a statement, “This restructure is a combination of head count and operational improvements. We have eliminated approximately five percent of our global workforce and consolidated other positions elsewhere in the company.”
Of course, small companies are not the only ones who get caught in the crossfire of patent aggregators. Google was recently involved in a patent dispute with IV — one that is not entirely solved as a judge recently declared a mistrial on the lawsuit. The suit was brought by IV against Google’s Motorola Mobility unit for violating three patents that are related to smartphone technologies. The case will face a retrial.