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As CEO of Intellectual Ventures, international traveler and cooking guru, Nathan Myhrvold is a busy man.

Nathan Myhrvold.

So busy, in fact, that he doesn’t have time — nor thinks it’s necessary — to appear for a deposition in an ongoing spat with another patent holding firm. And he certainly doesn’t want to talk about alleged conversations he had with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

Myhrvold is trying to avoid appearing in court for a lawsuit filed by Lodsys, a Texas-based patent holding company similar to Intellectual Ventures. Lodsys wants to question Myhrvold about a trail of patent deals that happened between Intellectual Ventures, Lodsys, and another middleman patent-holding firm called Webvention. Among the details it wants are alleged discussions between Myhrvold and Gates, specifically about the patent arrangements between Microsoft and Intellectual Ventures.

Myhrvold argues that those discussions are “completely irrelevant” to the case.

Legal news website Groklaw has a good analysis of all this, including the tangled Web of patent transfers between Intellectual Ventures, Webvention and Lodsys. From the website:

He [Myhrvold] also allegedly had some conversations with Bill Gates that they’d like to ask him about, and there is an email to Gates and others at Microsoft dealing with “combinations” that they say came from Myhrvold’s email account that they are interested in asking him about. Finally, there is an IV license with Microsoft that Lodsys would like more information about.

Myhrvold’s lawyers don’t agree with that logic. From the case:

The only license at issue in the Cases is between Apple and IV. Microsoft is not a party to the Cases and its license is completely irrelevant. Conversations between two nonparties about a license not at issue are parole evidence and should be excluded from evidence by this Court.

His lawyers also claim that Myhrvold does not need to speak because Lodsys already had a chance to question IV co-founder Peter Detkin, who said he wrote the email to Gates with another lawyer, even though it was sent from Myhrvold’s account.

Also, lawyers argue that Myhrvold is just too busy. From the case:

Dr. Myhrvold is not a party to the Cases and has no knowledge of the patent claims at issue. Dr. Myhrvold is the Founder and CEO of IV and maintains a busy professional schedule, down to the hour, that requires frequent domestic and international travel. Taking even a few hours of Dr. Myhrvold’s time for this deposition would present a great burden on IV and Dr. Myhrvold personally. If Dr. Myhrvold is going to be subjected to a deposition in the Cases, then good cause should be shown for it. Plaintiff cannot make any such showing, especially where, as here, Plaintiff has already had ample opportunity to obtain the requested information at the deposition of IV’s 30(b)(6) designee from high ranking executive Peter Detkin

Last week, we wrote about how The Federal Trade Commission is planning to launch an investigation of patent-holding firms that will require companies to answer questions about the legitimacy of their business. That came after President Barack Obama made clear earlier this month that he wants to investigate the practices these firms.

We reached out to Intellectual Ventures, and here’s what they had to say about the case.

Intellectual Ventures is not involved in the dispute between Apple and Lodsys. Despite this, we’ve been subpoenaed by Lodsys to provide information on IV’s licensing agreements with Apple. We have provided numerous documents and IV co-founder Peter Detkin testified in a multi-hour deposition.

However, Lodsys continues to seek information – including confidential information about IV customers – we do not believe is relevant to its case. Because of this, we’ve asked the court to deny Lodsys’ request to depose Dr. Myhrvold and the details can be found in the publically available court documents.

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