Joff Wild

Intellectual Ventures is in the unusual position of basking in what can only be described as a hugely positive press. So often derided as the world’s biggest patent troll or worse, IV finds itself glowingly referred to as the company “that helps inventors commercialize their ideas” and “the big Bellevue investment firm” with nary a critical word to find anywhere. The reason is its recently announced launch of CF Holdings Ltd, a company that produces and sells something called coffee flour, using  patents developed and owned by IV.

Coffee flour, says a blog describing the launch, is “a new, sustainable food ingredient derived from coffee cherries”. It can be used to make a wide range of goods including “baked goods, pastas, energy drinks, and granola bars”. IV got involved after being approached by Dan Belliveau, who is a member of the firm’s inventor network. “In addition to working with Dan and his team to develop an IP strategy, we helped them access a supply of coffee cherries, recruit global partners in the coffee industry, and introduced the Coffee Flour concept to some of the world’s largest food and beverage companies,” writes Chris Alliegro, the executive vice president of IV’s Invention Development Fund.

And it’s a move that has won plenty of positive coverage: 

“… the Seattle company led by Nathan Myrhvold that helps inventors commercialize their ideas.” – The Guardian.

“Intellectual Ventures, a firm started by former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, also invested and helped with the patenting process.”  - Bloomberg Business Week.

“CF Global is a spinoff of Intellectual Ventures—the firm, led by Nathan Myhrvold, that is most (in)famous for its patent trollery, but that also offers would-be investors assistance through its Invention Development Fund.” – The Atlantic.

“His idea has won the backing of Intellectual Ventures, the big Bellevue investment firm run by former Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold, a billionaire and a prolific inventor who is also a foodie.” – The Seattle Times.

With its backing for coffee flour, as with a previous venture with Finnish company Raisio, IV is showing that NPE IP expertise can be put to more uses than the generation of licensing and sales revenues. As we have previously commented, it’s something that other NPEs, as well as operating companies, should be looking at.  

By outsourcing IP work to entities such as IV, innovative companies can ensure that they have people with deep experience and knowledge of IP markets, as well as a network of senior contacts, working on their side. For the NPEs, there’s not just the good publicity, but also the opportunity to widen their product offering – at a time when the licensing business model is coming under ever greater scrutiny. And, if they play their cards right, there is also the possibility of very large monetary returns.  It’s hard to see a downside, isn’t it?