Kymeta sheds new light on patent troll debate
Apr 26, 2013, 3:00am PDT
Three years ago in the bathroom off a bioscience lab at Intellectual Ventures, a group of scientists created a makeshift physics lab where they huddled to carefully connect microscopic wires to circuit boards. The team at the Bellevue campus was building the prototype of what would become technology behind a potentially industry-changing mobile satellite link.
“We didn’t have a necessary facility so we put together a small darkroom/clean room in IV’s bathroom,” said Kymeta founder and Chief Technology Officer Nathan Kundtz. “No comment on whether or not we had proper ventilation,” the 30-year-old physicist added with a laugh.
Now Redmond-based Kymeta, which raised $12 million in early stage funding last year from big-name investors including Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, has spun out of Intellectual Ventures. The company is developing and testing a portable system about the size of a laptop that would provide high-speed internet connections by accessing satellites from anywhere in the world.
The prototype successfully connected to a satellite for the first time on April 24. Once the system is completed, the company hopes to sell devices to anyone from war correspondents to luxury yacht owners to business jet manufacturers.
Kymeta’s recent milestone follows the earlier successes of the first IV spinoff company, mini-nuclear-reactor maker TerraPower, and the creation of other startups whose founders were former IV scientists. Together, the developments shed new light on a long-running debate about whether Intellectual Ventures is supporting the next generation of visionaries or stifling innovation with aggressive legal tactics.
Over the past several years, Intellectual Ventures has used its massive patent portfolio – it claims to have more than 40,000 – to sue companies using its technology and force them to pay licensing fees.
Some have called the company a “patent troll” or non-practicing entity (NPE), because it does not use many of its patents to develop its own products. Others have said IV’s approach will be a windfall for inventors, and IV founder Nathan Myhrvold, a former Microsoft chief technology officer, has described the approach as a play on venture capital. He calls it “invention capital” — investing in inventions.
Read more at Puget Sound Business Journal