Basically, it is a cynics play on our broken patent system. He and a team of lawyers use shell companies to snag undervalued patents. They have also built a patent factory in order to lock up entire fields of endeavor. The end product is an idea tax via royalties and penalties for non-payment. The big difference between this venture and other attempts at this is the amount of money and sophistication -- its an order of magnitude more.
IF the future of American innovation is rentier economics, then count me out. The cynical nature of this makes you want to root for Chinese knock-off artists.
A commentor adds:
[T]hese men are much worse than the robber barons. The robber barons typically had to actually build a railroad. Not just open up an office and persecute inventors.
Indeed. There's a deep and strong strain of business culture that sees nothing more attractive than locking up technology in a box, hardening the dividing line between creators and consumers in the digital age. It's the pure zero-sum fatback mentality: lock down something people need (like a bridge, or now a good idea) and charge a toll for using it, the kind of "entrepreneurialism" that holds everyone back. Nice.
Procedural literacy (the knowledge of how things work and thus how to change them and make new things) is already at a premium thanks to decades of proprietary thinking in the technology sphere. These kinds of ventures seek to extend the proprietary shell game beyond working products and into the realm of ideas themselves. Boo hiss indeed.
Paging Chris Messina...