Nathan Myhrvold answers Slashdot questions. Photo via Intellectual Ventures.

With a caffeine-free Diet Coke and a cappuccino by his side, Nathan Myhrvold entered the “lion’s den” today — a.k.a. Slashdot — and tried to persuade the site’s denizens that he’s one of them … at least to an extent.

“The fact is that I have more in common with you guys on /. than you might think,” wrote the Intellectual Ventures leader and former Microsoft technology chief in a Q&A with the site’s readers. “This is a community populated by engineers and technologists, not Luddites. You love great ideas. So do I. We may differ on the *economic value* of those great ideas, but I think this group debates innovation with the same passion and rigor that I do.”

Myhrvold is a frequent target of criticism on Slashdot and other sites for his company’s vast patent holdings, and its efforts to win licensing fees from companies that Intellectual Ventures believes to be violating those patents.

Asked if the patent system is broken, Myhrvold said no, but acknowledged that it isn’t perfect. He wrote, “Within computer technology, the system of granting patents works reasonably well. The system of getting an inventor paid isn’t that great because historically speaking giant technology companies steal a lot of inventions and don’t pay for them.

He continued, “This is changing somewhat because big tech companies like Microsoft and Apple are now enforcing patents as a part of their business strategy, but there is still a strong segment of the tech industry that doesn’t want to pay inventors.

“The ideal system would be a meritocracy where inventors would get paid for their work. That is what makes the incentive system work. Failing to pay hurts the effectiveness of the system overall.”

Other topics addressed during the Q&A ranged from flying cars to metamaterials and Myhrvold’s advice for blending wine. Overall, an informative and at times entertaining exercise. Read Myhrvold’s advance answers here, and his live Q&A here.

Related: Myhrvold to Microsoft alumni: ‘We participated in one of the most beneficial revolutions in human history’

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  • curiousoffice

    In general, so much of their overall effort seems to be moving in the opposite direction of technology. Open source is stronger than ever as is transparency and cooperation in the tech community. Increasingly, what makes “tech” work isn’t this effort.

  • josebrwn

    This is the same man who architected Microsoft’s uncompetitive bundling practices, who wanted to take a “vig” for every internet transaction, and said in 1993, “The historical situation is that the market share
    leader in systems software takes about 90% or so of the market, the
    runner up takes about 90% of what is left, and so on”

  • Peter H

    He still didn’t address the issue that software patents are far too broad and obvious. The guy who invested RSA cryptography actually invented something novel; the person who came up with parameterized search for shopping (show me only size 9 shoes) did not.

    In the latter case, nearly every ecommerce store owner would independently invent such a feature. But there’s a patent on it, and that patent holder is trying to get ecommerce stores to pay him.

    Where is the line? The big problem we have now, that Myhrvold did not address, is far far too many sofware patents are for obvious inventions that most people would come up with on their own.

  • Henry Tirebiter

    Interesting that he’s afraid to show his face. Reeks of someone with something to hide.

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