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Lettris is a curious tetris-clone game where all the bricks have the same square shape but different content. Each square carries a letter. To make squares disappear and save space for other squares you have to assemble English words (left, right, up, down) from the falling squares.
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|Type||Privately held company|
|Headquarters||Bellevue, Washington, United States|
|Number of locations||10|
Intellectual Ventures is a private company notable for being one of the top-five owners of U.S. patents, as of 2011. Its business model has a focus on developing a large patent portfolio and licensing these patents to companies. Publicly, it states that a major goal is to assist small inventors against corporations. In practice, much of their revenue comes from licensing patents from other corporations and then filing lawsuits for infringement of patents, a controversial practice known as patent trolling.
Intellectual Ventures launched a prototyping and research laboratory in 2009 called Intellectual Ventures Lab which attracted media controversy when the book SuperFreakonomics described its ideas for reducing global climate change. Its employees are predominantly patent attorneys, physicists, engineers and biotechnologists.
Intellectual Ventures was founded as a private partnership in 2000 by Nathan Myhrvold, Edward Jung of Microsoft, Peter Detkin of Intel, and Gregory Gorder of Perkins Coie, a Seattle-based law firm. They reportedly have raised over $5 billion from many large companies including Microsoft, Intel, Sony, Nokia, Apple, Google, SAP, Nvidia and eBay, plus investment firms such as Charles River Ventures. Reported statistics indicate over 30,000 purchased patents and applications and over 2000 internally developed inventions. Licenses to patents are obtained through investment and royalties.
The company operates three primary investment funds:
Intellectual Ventures launched a prototyping and research laboratory in 2009 called Intellectual Ventures Lab, hiring prominent scientists to perform invention including Robert Langer of MIT, Leroy Hood of the Institute for Systems Biology, Ed Harlow of Harvard Medical School, Danny Hillis of Applied Minds, and Sir John Pendry of Imperial College. The Sunday Times reported that the company applies for about 450 patents per year, in areas from vaccine research to optical computing and, as of May 2010, 91 of the applications had been approved. Internally developed inventions include a safer nuclear reactor design (which won the MIT Technology Review Top 10 Emerging Technologies in 2009) that can use uranium waste as fuel or thorium which is plentiful and poses no proliferation risk, a mosquito targeting laser based on Strategic Defense Initiative Star Wars technology, and a series of computer models of infectious disease.
Their efforts to promote a method to reverse or reduce the effects of global climate change by artificially recreating the conditions from the aftermath of a volcanic eruption gained media coverage following the release of the book SuperFreakonomics. Information in the fifth chapter of the book about global warming proposes that the global climate can be regulated by geo-engineering of a stratoshield based upon patented technology from Nathan Myhrvold's company.
The chapter has been criticized by some economists and climate science experts who say it contains numerous misleading statements and discredited arguments, including this presentation of geoengineering as a replacement for CO2 emissions reduction. Among the critics are Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong, The Guardian, and The Economist. Elizabeth Kolbert, a science writer for The New Yorker who has written extensively on global warming, contends that "just about everything they [Levitt and Dubner] have to say on the topic is, factually speaking, wrong." In response, Levitt and Dubner have stated on their Freakonomics blog that global warming is man-made and an important issue. They warn against the exaggerated claims of an inevitable doomsday; instead they look to raise awareness of other, less traditional or popular, methods to tackle the potential problem of global warming.
Intellectual Ventures' purchased patents have largely been kept secret, though press releases with Telcordia and Transmeta indicated some or all of their patent portfolios were sold to the company. Investigative journalism suggests that the company makes most of its income from lawsuits and licensing of already-existing inventions, rather than from its own innovation. Intellectual Ventures has been described as a "patent troll" by Shane Robison, CTO of Hewlett Packard and others, allegedly accumulating patents not in order to develop products around them but with the goal to pressure large companies into paying licensing fees. Recent reports indicate that Verizon and Cisco made payments of $200 million to $400 million for investment and access to the Intellectual Ventures portfolio.
On December 8, 2010, Intellectual Ventures filed its first lawsuit, accusing Check Point, McAfee, Symantec, Trend Micro, Elpida, Hynix, Altera, Lattice and Microsemi of patent infringement. The company has also been accused of hiding behind shell companies for earlier lawsuits, an accusation consistent with the findings of NPR's Planet Money in July 2011. The episode, which also aired as "When Patents Attack" of This American Life, was dedicated to software patents, prominently featuring Intellectual Ventures. It includes sources accusing Intellectual Ventures of pursuing a strategy encouraging mutually assured destruction, including Chris Sacca calling Nathan Myhrvold's argument that Intellectual Ventures is offering protection from lawsuits a "mafia style shakedown".
Intellectual Ventures staff are active in lobbying and testifying in court on United States patent policy. It reports its purchasing activity as of spring 2010 has sent $350 million to individual inventors and $848 million to small and medium size enterprises as well as returning "approximately $1 billion" to investors without filing any lawsuits. In March 2009 Intellectual Ventures announced expansion into China, India, Japan, Korea and Singapore to build partnerships with prominent scientists and institutions in Asia to create and market inventions.
While the company claims to assist independent inventors, one finding claimed that they have been unable to note a single case of aid they have provided to a single, independent inventor. The practice of legally prosecuting infringement of patents that are not used by the company to produce goods or services has been referred to as "patent trolling" by some investigative journalists and industrialists.