Intellectual Ventures, if you believe the Wall Street Journal, is striking fear in the hearts of tech CEOs with its vast portfolio of patents. Former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold set up the fund to buy up patents and then extract licensing fees from companies. He has extracted fees as high as $350 million from the likes of Verizon, the Journal reports. Myhrvold often coopts his targets by striking deals to have them invest in his fund. Buried in a transcript accompanying the scare piece is a telltale fact, though, which calls into question whether Myhrvold is as smart as all the tech reporters think he is.To date, he has raised $5 billion, but only brought in $1 billion. Myhrvold has gotten everyone from the Journal to BusinessWeek to the New Yorker to write about his big, scary patent operation. Have any of those credulous journalists stopped to ask if Myhrvold might be a better publicist than a businessman? By Myhrvold's own admission, Intellectual Ventures is an operation which thrives by constantly extracting money from new investors. Perhaps Myhrvold should take out a patent on the Ponzi scheme.
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