Joff Wild

A website called Plainsite has published what it claims is a list of shell companies used by Intellectual Ventures. There are over 2,200 of them and they run from 130 West Packard LLC through to Zxtalk Assets LLC. If you click on a particular name you then get an address and, sometimes, further information such as the patents that are held by the entity.

Plainsite itself is not an organisation I know anything about. The website states that it is a joint venture non-profit set-up by Think Computer Corporation and Think Computer Foundation, which were both founded by a bloke called Aaron Greenspan, who also claims to have set up the predecessor to Facebook while at Harvard.  Greenspan’s name features on the Plainsite site, so presumably he runs that as well (I realise I may well have exposed myself to being way behind the curve by admitting no prior knowledge, but there you go!). Most important, though, is that there seems to be no indication as to how the list of shell companies was put together, who did it and whether it has been independently verified; so it’s very difficult to vouch for its accuracy.

One of the frequent criticisms that IV has faced over the years is its lack of transparency and use of shell companies. Various people have published studies of the firm and the shell companies it has established for which they charge a good deal of money; most recently patent analytics firm IP CheckUps failed in an attempt to develop an IV shell company database because it could not find enough people to back the idea through crowdfunding website Indiegogo, though it has since announced it will go ahead anyway in a modified form.

It is tempting to think that someone at IV may have provided the information in order to stymie such efforts, but that would involve believing the firm is relaxed about inviting any number of pre-emptive strikes against its portfolio from possible targets via re-exams and other routes. The alternative is that someone has been doing the donkey work anonymously for a while and is now ready to selflessly share their findings. Or, maybe, the list is completely inaccurate. One thing is for sure, there will be people poring over the information in order to see whether there is something in it. And some may well decide there is potential there to make a name for themselves and/or to drum up business.