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Nathan Myhrvold
Nathan Myhrvold

It seems like talk of more federal patent regulation has spooked Intellectual Ventures.

The company recently submitted a filing with the U.S. Federal Election Commission indicating that the patent holding company intends to start a political action committee.

The PAC will be able to donate cash to the campaigns of legislators for the upcoming midterm election, which is key for IV. It means the company could start giving campaign contributions to lawmakers who could be voting on the Innovation Act, a piece of patent reform legislation that has passed the house, but IV has blasted for being a “flawed bill.”

The filing, first spotted by The Hill, names Russ Merbeth, the Bellevue-based company’s in-house lobbyist, as the treasurer of the PAC. Kyle Mahoney, who serves as IV’s Government Relations Manager, is named as the assistant treasurer.

“We did register a PAC this week, but there are not any details to share beyond that,” Mahoney said in an email to GeekWire, when asked about the purpose of the PAC.

The PAC would seem to be a response by the company to an environment in Washington D.C. that’s increasingly hostile to patent holding companies like Intellectual Ventures. The White House announced a trio of new executive actions today that are focused on patents. The actions call for better training of patent examiners in technical matters, “crowdsourcing” the review of patents to find prior inventions that might invalidate them and creating a program that provides legal representation for inventors who can’t afford a lawyer.

Intellectual Ventures, which is owned by former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, has acquired more than 70,000 patents, and has earned more than $3 billion from licensing those patents to other companies. Earlier this month, the company reported that it was laying off 5 percent of its staff, after curtailing its patent acquisitions while seeking another $3 billion in new funding.

While doubling down on giving money to politicians may seem like an odd choice for a company that recently underwent layoffs, stricter federal regulations that make it harder for IV to win patent suits could have a significant impact on the company’s future.

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