Newsmakers 2011: Nathan Myhrvold, gourmet geek and patent lightning rod

Nathan Myhrvold was in the spotlight in 2011 perhaps more than at any other point since he was Microsoft’s chief technology officer — and for two very different reasons.

First, Myhrvold and his team released the geekiest cookbook the world has ever seen — a six-volume, 2,400-page, 40-pound epic called Modernist Cuisine, on the art and science of preparing food. Even Stephen Colbert was impressed with Myhrvold’s pastrami.

And second, Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures came under increased scrutiny for acquiring, trading, licensing and in some cases filing suit over its huge collection of patents — part of the rising tension over intellectual property across the tech industry.

The attention extended to the national media as the Bellevue-based company was accused of a ‘mafia-style shakedown’ in a This American Life radio exposé. Intellectual Ventures responded by saying it fundamentally disagreed with many of the assertions in the piece.

“Some of their characterizations of patents in general and of IV specifically were colorful and dramatic, and some were just absurd,” the company said at the time. “Sadly, they distracted listeners from the real issue – that ideas have value and inventors who invest time, money and emotional resources into protecting those ideas with patents have a right to recognize a return on their investments.”

Agree or disagree, there’s no disputing that Myhrvold was a major newsmaker this past year.

Newsmakers at the GeekWire Gala

We’ll be recognizing more than 20 Newsmakers of 2011 during the GeekWire Gala, Dec. 8 at the Great Hall at Seattle’s Union Station. We’ll introduce a new Newsmaker every weekday leading up to the big event.

The night is also a celebration of “Geeks who Give Back,” recognized in a special GeekWire 2012 Calendar that will be given to attendees, with a share of sponsorship proceeds going to the Child’s Play charity.

Tickets are available here for the event.

Thanks to our sponsors Zillow, Bing, Filter, Facebook and Barokas PR for helping to make this special evening possible.

Contact Rebecca Lovell, rebecca@geekwire.com, for sponsorship opportunities.

  • Borton Smithson

    Is ”
    lightning rod” the new way to say “troll”?

  • http://twitter.com/goodchemist Alex Hillinger

    I don’t think the fact “that ideas have value and inventors…have a right to recognize a return on their investments” is the issue with Intellectual Ventures’ business practices at all. That’s just Myhrvold’s attempt at PR spin (hint: stick to making pastrami). Rather, it’s the way IV takes a predatory, let’s-see-who-we-can-sue approach to patent enforcement that bears ethical questioning. 

    BTW, been to the Fremont “lightening rod” lately?

  • Guest

    His options were to:

    1. Create Companies, and make Seattle better
    2. Tax Innovation, and make all start-ups lives worse

    He’s chosen option 2 to date.  I hope he realizes he could change direction and choose option 1.