Intellectual Ventures Watchdog IP Checkups: Co-Founder Rappaport, IV, Altitude Ties?




Image: Corporationwiki.com listing

News about patent analytics firm IP Checkups going thermonuclear on mega patent troll Intellectual Ventures (IV) exploded early this week. The Berkeley, Calif. firm last week announced a crowd-funded investigation to track and publish what it says are the shadowy activities of Intellectual Ventures, one of the planet’s largest patent holders with 40,000 patents hidden in more than 1,200 oddly named shell companies.

But IP Checkups, a company that says it is performing this service for the sake of transparency, didn’t disclose in its own press release that one of its listed co-founders, long-time Silicon Valley attorney Irving S. Rappaport, was an inventor listed on the cover of six patents owned by an IV shell company.

Update: Irving S. Rappaport, in a statement on Friday to this reporter, said, “I am unaware of any business relationship between (IP Checkups) and (Intellectual Ventures).” He also said he was uninvolved with IP Checkups, though he is listed on its website as the second co-founder. The first is his son, Matthew, with whom the senior Rappaport says he co-founded the firm in 2004. The junior Rappaport’s comments are included in full below the fold.

Also of note, Rappaport was chief IP counsel at Apple during the mid 1990s. That was during its Gil Amelio CEO era, before the return of late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. He at last sent this reporter comments after four days of inquiry on Friday. Find them verbatim below the fold.

For four business days and via a dozen emails, company reps refused on-the-record comment on Rappaport’s role, as suggested by public documents below, as a chief IP counsel of Altitude Capital Partners and his press release described role as an advisory board member there.

Oddly, Altitude took its board of advisors page down that once listed Rappaport, though the Wayback Machine shows Rappaport front and center.

In his statement, Irving Rappaport denies any real ties with Altitude — and even denies a meaningful role with IP Checkups, beyond the fact that he co-founded it with his son, Matthew.

In the statement he emailed to anewdomain.net — find it in full below the fold — he said:

I do not recall ever being consulted by or giving advice as IP counsel or otherwise to Altitude on any of Altitude’s matters or any subsidiaries owned by Altitude. (ED: emphasis added.)

Altitude has ties with Intellectual Ventures and another so-called non-practicing entity (NPE) — the pejorative term is troll — the public company RPX. RPX in April purchased Altitude’s Digitude patent litigating arm for $48 million plus.

Here is the senior Rappaport’s listing, updated in September of this year, as displayed in Zoominfo, which aggregates public records about individuals and executives using what it says are public docs.

Backing up, the firm says it’s raising $80,000 to launch Case IV Thicket via crowd-source funding firm IndieGogo.

According to public records obtained by aNewDomain.net, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) named Irving S, Rappaport as a co-inventor on a June 2011 patent — with a cover that identifies as its owner the well-known Intellectual Ventures shell company, Rose Blush Software LLC. That is one of six Rappaport co-invented patents with IV’s Rose Blush on the cover. Rose Blush LLC is a Nevada and Delaware LLC based in Los Altos, Calif.

Read about other patents linking Rappaport to IV below the fold.

Rappaport on Friday afternoon contacted anewdomain.net via email and submitted a statement distancing himself from IP Checkups, Altitude and Intellectual Ventures.

He said he was “unaware” of any business relationship between IV and IP Checkups. His son, Matthew Rappaport, also submitted a comment to anewdomain.net Friday saying IP Checkups did not have a deal with Intellectual Ventures, Altitude, RPX, Google, Apple or any other “notable” partners.

Scroll below to see the comments from Rappaports junior and senior below.

As for Matt Rappaport, who reps claim owns 100 percent of the company, he is neither a lawyer nor patent agent, but a musician with dealings in patents, his social profiles say. The senior Rappaport is featured second on its cofounder list. He claims on his bio to have built the IP department at Apple.

And his bio also says he was associate general counsel at Intel Corp, the same position held later by Intellectual Ventures co-founder Peter Detkin. Detkin and former Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold founded IV in 2000 with former Microsoft exec Ed Jung and attorney Ed Gorder.

Intellectual Ventures did not comment for this story. Rather, it pointed to its investigator’s crowd-funding forum. There, a junior PR rep at IP Checkups answered a question from one of our readers, acknowledging many hours after the public announcement that the senior Rappaport’s name was on at least three patents sold by his firm to an Intellectual Ventures shell.

Earlier this year, I reported in ComputerWorld and on this site that widely-feared IV was funded and held by members such tech companies as Apple, Sony, Microsoft, Intel, Adobe, Cisco, eBay, Nokia, nVidia, Verizon, Xilinx and Yahoo. The list of the highly secret club of investors was revealed in a Xilinx court disclosure.

According to public documents, the senior Rappaport co-founded a firm called Aurigin Systems, Inc. Rappaport’s Aurigin owned 34 patents, of which Rappaport was  a named inventor on 26. After its bankruptcy, Aurigin sold its patents and applications to holding company Micropatent LLC for $12.5 million dollars U.S. That company in turn sold the patents to Rose Blush Software LLC, an IV shell company.

The amount of that second sale is undisclosed.

Rose Blush Software is an Intellectual Ventures shell company as identified by our patent — and IV — expert Tom Ewing. See the report from The Stanford Technology Review below.

For example, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted US Patent 7,949,728 on May 24, 2011. In addition, Rose Blush Software was publicly linked to IV in press reports as early as 2006, said Ewing.

DISCLOSURE: Tom Ewing is our legal analyst here at aNewDomain.net and is an intellectual property attorney who IAM Magazine named one of the world’s top IP strategists for the last four years.

Lily Li, director of marketing at IP Checkups, did address a concern from one of our readers regarding the firm’s possible ties to IV via Irving Rappaport. See that response below. But the press, so far at least, is getting a different story. In an email to anewdomain.net, however, director Kathryn Paisner did not address any that or any questions regarding the ties we discovered between IV and its so-called investigator.

Screenshot:  aNewDomain.net

Ewing has sold a report of IV’s patent holdings for the last five years.  As mentioned above, hHe also co-authored an article about mass patent aggregators like IV with University of California Hastings Law School professor Robin Feldman. That was published in the Stanford Technology Law Review in January. It’s in full below.

Of note: The same IV attorney who signed the power of attorney docs for the Rose Blush cases also signed documents that were reported in the Giants Among Us article in The Stanford Technology Law Review.

Here is a letter Rappaport sent to the USPTO. Note the address. He lives a few houses away from billionaire Facebook founder Marc Zuckerberg. The letter shows he was at least aware of his patents.

Irv Rappaport, via an outside press agent and after four days inquiry submitted the following statement to anewdomain.net four days after IP Checkups announced its plans to investigate Intellectual Ventures.

Statement from Irving S. Rappaport
1. Matt and I co-founded IP Checkups (IPC) in 2004. I have been an advisor to Matt and IPC, but have never received any compensation from IPC and am not an officer or employee of IPC.
2. I am unaware of any business relationship between IPC and IV.
3. I have never been an “IV-related Inventor,” as claimed in Ms. Smith’s article. I was a co-founder, director and officer of SmartPatents, Inc. which changed its name around 1998 to Aurigin Systems. I was a co-inventor along with several other employees of SmartPatents/Aurigin on over 20 issued patents and pending U.S. patent applications and corresponding foreign counterparts. In May 2002 the assets, including its software, services, customers and all issued patents and pending patent applications of SmartPatents/Aurigin, were purchased by MicroPatent LLC, a company owned by IHI Holdings. Sometime after the purchase of the Aurigin assets by MicroPatent, the Aurigin portfolio of patents and pending applications was apparently sold some considerable time later by MicroPatent or its successors in interest to a company called Rose Blush Software, which apparently is a company owned by Intellectual Ventures (IV).
4. I have never worked as an employee or consultant for IV or any of its subsidiaries, nor have I ever assisted IV or any of its subsidiaries with the filing or prosecution of any patents or applications of mine or anyone else’s after I left Aurigin in January 2002.
5. Several years ago I, along with former Patent Commissioner, Bruce Lehman, was asked by Rob Kramer to be a member of the advisory board of Altitude Capital. I accepted that membership with absolutely no compensation. I have never been invited to or attended any meetings of the Altitude Advisory Board. I have never held the position of “chief IP counsel” to Altitude. I do not recall ever being consulted by or giving advice as IP counsel or otherwise to Altitude on any of Altitude’s matters or any subsidiaries owned by Altitude. I never had a phone number at Altitude and am unaware that their phone has been disconnected or that their website no longer lists any board advisors.
6. Any company or entity that asserts a patent, which is not practicing the claimed invention, could be considered a non-practicing entity, including Microsoft, Google or anyone else. The word “troll” is just a term that has assumed a negative connotation and used to conjure up “bogeymen.” There is no requirement in the U.S. Constitution or our patent laws that an inventor or patent owner make, use or sell any product or service covered by a patent.

The junior Rappaport emailed aNewDomain.net, via a press rep, late Friday evening, also, denying the company had a relationship with Intellectual Ventures or any other “notable” partner. His comment and the responses to our follow up questions via its PR rep over email below:

To follow up on our previous correspondence, here are responses from Matt Rappaport:
Is IP C affiliated with any non-practicing entity — or any corporate entity — including Intellectual Ventures, Google, RPX, Altitude/Digitude?
MATT RAPPAPORT via rep: IP Checkups is an independent company. Matt Rappaport is the sole shareholder. IP Checkups does not work with IV, Google, RPX or Altitude/Digitude. IE, does IPC have a business relationship with RPX, Google, Microsoft, or Apple or any other party, NPE or otherwise. Mr. Rappaport says he does not know?
MATT RAPPAPORT via rep: We do not have a business relationship with RPX, Google, Microsoft, or Apple.
Additionally, here are responses from Irv Rappaport to your follow-up questions (from his statement to anewdomain.net):
For Mr. Rappaport: If you were aware that you were named on 26 issued patents … did you know that Intellectual Ventures owned most of them, too?
I have no proof that Intellectual Ventures owns any of the 26 US issued patents that I am named as a co-inventor on. (ED: emphasis added.)

We will be following up with IP Checkups this week to see how the firm is defining “notable.”

Related Article on IP Touch Flap: What is a Nice IP Attorney Like Me Dealing with Pirates Like This? by Tom Ewing

This is intriquing reading if you are interested in how large firms use shells and blocks of patents to defend themselves or use offensively in litigations. Full text of Ewing and Feldman’s The Stanford Technology Law Review, below, readable in place.

Feldman Giants Among Us

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  • RobertBigelow

    Perhaps the “Esquire” might want to do a little historical research on some of the terms he uses to describe himself. Remember the pioneers of radio broadcasting, Lee de Forest, Edwin Armstrong, and David Sarnoff? Only one was an actual inventor. The other two were pure entrepreneurs.

  • Art

    Now that is reporting!

  • Victor

    Gina – I read with interest your post about IP checkups campaign to discover Intellectual Ventures portfolio. I was concerned about IPCU having a connection with IV after reading your post, so I asked them on Indiegogo if they had anything to do with IV. They said they had nothing to do with IV. That’s a relief. Their reply is attached. I have wondered if IPCU might be working with RPX or someone who is anti IV like maybe google or xilinx. I have posted a follow on question to them but have not yet received a reply.

  • Gina

    That makes two of us!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=661652965 Robert Sachs

    Exciting reporting about nothing. This clearly demonstrates that you have absolutely no understanding of the patent field. That IV ended up owning, as part of its 40,000 patents, 26 patents on which Rappaport was an inventor is at best a coincidence and evidence of nothing.

    The underlying suggestion of your report is that there is some conflict of interest in Rappaport’s company doing analysis of IV’s patents, because of these 26 patents. Let’s dispel that now. There is no conflict of interest.

    “What is key here is not just that Rappaport and IP Checkups did not reveal that there was a potential connection between IP Checkups founder Rappaport and IV. It’s that IV continued to prosecute the pending applications naming Rappaport post-sale.”
    Nonsense twice over. Once the patents were sold to Micropatent, it’s not like Rappaport has any control over them. Micropatent sold them the Rose Blush, and Rappaport would have not had any involvement in that sale. At that point his name is on it, and that’s it. There’s no reason Rappaport would reveal a “potential connection” because the connection is literally in name only.
    The notion that there is something nefarious about IV continuing to prosecute them is silly: of course they continued to prosecute the patents, they owned them. If you buy a pending patent application, you don’t abandon it. Again, evidence that you don’t understand what you are reporting about.
    “We still don’t know whether Rappaport helped IV turn these applications into issued patents”.
    Speaking from 20 years of experience, I can tell you the probability of this is 0.0001%. Rappaport would not have any legal obligation to assist in the prosecution, so the only way would be for IV to pay him. And they would not do that. Why? Because they would not need him at all. A skilled patent attorney can easily pick up a patent application written by someone else, understand it and continue to prosecute it. We do it all the time. Given Rappaport’s status and financial position, unless they paid him a $1,000/hr it’s not worth his time; Irv has a lot better things to do. And that’s not something IV would do.
    The idea that a downstream owner of a group of patents would contact the original inventor for assistance may sound reasonable, but is just doesn’t happen (very often) in real life. Of the 1000’s patents and pending applications that my clients have acquired over the years, unless the inventor also become an employee, we NEVER sought their assistance. NEVER.
    And if you don’t believe me, ask Tom Ewing. Tom worked with me for several years, (Hi Tom!). Tom worked on the Mercata portfolio of patents and applications well after Mercata went under, and the patents were taken over by Vulcan Ventures, Tom’s client.
    ALERT: Is there a sinister connection between Tom–>Vulcan–>Paul Allen–>Microsoft–>Nathan Myrhvold–>IV? Did Tom disclose this “potential connection” to IV to you? I’ll tell you the answer. No, and no because it was not even remotely relevant.
    Tom continued to prosecute the Mercata applications and as far as I know never needed the substantive assistance of the original inventors; once Tom left the firm, I took over the portfolio and never once spoke with the inventors.

    And for the record, I don’t do any work for IV or any of its shell companies. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they own dozens of patents that I or my firm prosecuted for other companies, and that IV continued to prosecute after purchase.

  • Gina

    Robert, with all due respect, and this story is developing, when you call a company and say who are you? And said “investigator” says: Why do you want to know? You start digging. I never said there was a conflict of interest. I said that this group represents itself as transparent. Open. In the interest of outing IV.

    Yet it would not confirm to me yay or nay that it was affiliated or not affiliated with IV.

    Furthermore, Rappaport is a board member and was until recently chief IP counsel at a giant patent troll that is suing 43 smartphone companies. Watch this page.

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