Facebook Huddles with Patent Vampire

Mark Zuckerberg was photographed in intimate conversation with Microsoft's former CTO in Sun Valley last week. The Facebook founder might simply have been quizzing Nathan Myhrvold about Zuckerberg doppelgänger Bill Gates. But there's a more interesting possibility.

After leaving Microsoft, Myhrvold went into the patent business. His Intellectual Ventures works like this: Buy up patents, then use them to bludgeon large tech companies into forking over fees or making investments in Intellectual Ventures.

In the course of his short career, Zuckerberg, as a tipster reminded us, has accumulated a nice array of patents. They're related, as you might guess, to social networking and digital media. Could he use them against his rivals via Myhrvold, raising some money for Facebook in the process?

Given the interlocking web of interests a young Silicon Valley company like Facebook must weigh, the answer is likely to sound familiar to any user of the social network: It's complicated.