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June 25, 2006


mark safranski

Cognitively speaking, his brainstorming sessions are being done in spot-on manner to generate bursts of insight. The format is, in my view, virtually ideal.

Economically, Myhrvold's process is cultivating ideas where the Law of Diminishing Returns are yielding their greatest return.

A smart guy.

Agree with you John on the rentier aspects; the patent system was not designed to cope with strategic thinking in terms of aggregate patterns on the part of players, just to deal with patent applications as they came in.

John Robb

Hmm. Enter the brave new world of medical process patents (particularly those that involve software), carbet bombing patenting around medical devices (that can benefit from software), and much more. Really innovative, that.


What is fairly disgusting is that I have heard speakers at my law school extol the virtues of blocking patents. To no challenge. It's a popular concept among law students who want to get rich in the IP field.

One of the most fascinating things about IP law is that, for all the discussions of utility and benefit to society, there is (according to my professors and my own cursory research) not a lot of empirical data to show that it in fact encourages innovation and provides a net benefit to society.

More and more, I think it's just a shell game.

John Robb Sr

I read the Myhrvold article this weekend and the quick thought that came to mind was, "This is the enemy within -- using shell companies to buy patents to gain control of future processes. He and his fellow robber barons will inhibit progress in the name of greed!" Like the robber barons of the 1800's, who abused the system with their financial power, we now need laws similiar to the antitrust legislation to penalize such behavior. But the elected officials who must enact such legislation will not act quickly -- as for a certain period they will be the recipients of big lobby dollars from Myhrvold's group with it's highly paid lawyers (always at the top of the food chain). The elected officials will only act when the media builds the public perception momentum about how Myhrvold's group is financially raping society, and the danger of not being reelected becomes real.

He will try to hide behind the bringing together of good minds to solve problems, however, his use of shell companies and his greedy goals is how he should be measured and therefore stopped.

From the perspective of 74 years with many of those in the business and military world, and as the father of four children and 11 grandchildren, we need innovation and creative ideas to be developed as fast as possible to improve quality of life -- and not to be held hostage by greed. JMR Sr

Account Deleted

John, I read the same article, and had the same thoughts.

Mark, excellent insight.

JMR Sr, these men are much worse than the robber barons. The robber barons typically had to actually build a railroad. Not just open up an office and persecute inventors.


I only skimmed the article, but I had read about Myhrvold in "The Deal" shortly after he launched his firm. It was disturbing then, it is even more worrisome now. This most definetly is rentier economics. I would argue, however, that more regulations would not help since this is a problem of too much regulation and too many laws. The present condition of the patent system comes from increased regulations and laws on how private firms can operate. As the regs. and laws become more onerous and costly, businesses demand some type of compensation and this comes in the form of subsidies and monoplies (the monoplies in this regard are patents.) Any increase in the regulatory and legal burden will only lead to more of the same. Scaling back the regulatory regime is the best solution here. With respect to the robber barons, I have a differing view. I do not think these men were as bad as they are made out to be. Tough competitors yes. Some abuses yes. Innovators and wealth creators, absolutely. They also did not game the legal system to prevent competitors from entering the marketplace, they simply used the wealth they had created to raise the barriers of entry. By the time Rockefeller was sued under the Sherman antitrsut act, Standard Oils market share had plunged from ~89% to ~63%. The reason for this was oil was discovered in California and Texas; Rockefeller had little influence in these areas and was unable to buyout the wildcatters.


Stanley Krute

This doesn't surprise me.

The guy's always been a jerk.

Now he's a dangerous jerk.

Problem is that he's not stupid.
Just amoral.


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