Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 14th Jul 2011 21:16 UTC
Legal I've been sitting on this item all day. Technically, it's about patents and the like, and even I understand I've been beating this dead horse so often it almost looks like it's alive. However, this is an interesting opinion piece by Craig Hockenberry, long-time employee at The Iconfactory, one of my favourite software development houses - these guys breath software and beautiful design, and employ one of my favourite artists, David Lanham. The gist of his story? Software patents are killing the independent developer scene.
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I concur
by bnolsen on Thu 14th Jul 2011 21:21 UTC
bnolsen
Member since:
2006-01-06

I entirely concur with his statements. Our small shop (2 core developers) realize that we could be easily killt just by the threat of a patent lawsuit. And we're just too small to deal with all the overhead of constantly data mining the patent system ourselves.

We do employ legal counsel as part of our operations.

Reply Score: 11

RE: I concur
by mrstep on Thu 14th Jul 2011 21:30 UTC in reply to "I concur"
mrstep Member since:
2009-07-18

Aye. Do we have a quorum?

Given the lack of ability of small developers to buy off the system and get it changed in their favor, this doesn't seem likely to be fixed anytime soon. Anything from presenting a drop down menu, grouping selections together (shopping cart?), a grid of icons, etc. is apparently game for a patent, though putting cards in order in a filing cabinet isn't. It's just crazy.

That these laws are intended to protect inventors and foster innovation is a bit of a joke at this point.

Edited 2011-07-14 21:31 UTC

Reply Score: 7

RE: I concur
by bhtooefr on Sat 16th Jul 2011 21:06 UTC in reply to "I concur"
bhtooefr Member since:
2009-02-19

So, here's the question.

Really, if the company is founded properly (read: as a LLC), what can happen if you simply... ignore the courts?

And, keep all assets in cash, to avoid a freezing of assets working.

As long as you keep a puppet show working properly, you can fold the company if things get too bad, and then assign all of the company's IP to a new shell company.

Do this ad nauseum, or until those suing you give up.

Reply Score: 1

Ummm ...
by WorknMan on Thu 14th Jul 2011 21:57 UTC
WorknMan
Member since:
2005-11-13

The sad thing is that the only ones who can change this are the ones who have no interest in changing this at all. Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, and so on, all have a vested interest in keeping the patent system as it is - the only changes they are lobbying for are changes to make it harder for smaller entities to use the patent system. While this may stop lawsuits going from patent trolls to the larger companies - it will also turn the patent system into even more of a stomping ground for these same large companies than it already is.


Ummm, isn't this a case of a lawsuit going from a patent troll to a smaller company? Iconfactory is currently getting its ass handed to it by a patent troll, and this guy is blaming the larger companies who are trying to make it harder for patent trolls to abuse the system. So, what am I missing here?

Furthermore, how many cases have we seen of larger companies filing patent lawsuits against small, independent developers? I'd assume that a lot of bad PR would go along with that, and bad PR is like kryptonite to these corporations. I'd also assume these large companies would be happier going after other large companies, where surely more money could be had. Why would they give two shits about some Joe working on a small app out of his bedroom?

Edited 2011-07-14 22:00 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE: Ummm ...
by Thom_Holwerda on Thu 14th Jul 2011 22:01 UTC in reply to "Ummm ..."
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

So, what am I missing here?


The fact that this wasn't a reference to Lodsys? ;)

Furthermore, how many cases have we seen of larger companies filing patent lawsuits against small, independent developers?


It's the threat that counts. To take this way over the top - terrorism is not about killing people or making casualties. It's about scaring the crap out of your enemy.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Ummm ...
by WorknMan on Thu 14th Jul 2011 22:14 UTC in reply to "RE: Ummm ..."
WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

The fact that this wasn't a reference to Lodsys?


Ok, so again... where are the examples of these 'little guys' getting picked on by these large companies?

It's the threat that counts. To take this way over the top - terrorism is not about killing people or making casualties. It's about scaring the crap out of your enemy.


And I think that threat is a bit misguided. When it comes to terrorism (since you made the analogy), these large companies are like major metropolitan areas, while the small indie developers are like the folks who live in the back woods of Jerkwater, USA. If you're looking for the biggest target to hit, where are you going to aim? Plus, a lot of these companies (like Apple, MS, Google, etc.) have ecosystems that require the work of developers to survive, so are you gonna start suing the very people you need on your side to help run your business?

Only thing I'm saying is that when it comes to software patents, larger companies have a lot more to worry about than smaller ones do. The guy says that large companies have no interest in changing the system, but perhaps they will call a truce when they finally get tired of being sued by each other.

Edited 2011-07-14 22:17 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Ummm ...
by JAlexoid on Fri 15th Jul 2011 00:43 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Ummm ..."
JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

Ok, so again... where are the examples of these 'little guys' getting picked on by these large companies?


NDA! My dear Watson. You will never hear of it.

The guy says that large companies have no interest in changing the system, but perhaps they will call a truce when they finally get tired of being sued by each other.


You are naive, if you think they are spending their own money on the lawsuits. They will not get tired, ever.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Ummm ...
by macinnisrr on Fri 15th Jul 2011 17:37 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Ummm ..."
macinnisrr Member since:
2009-11-12

Really? In any case of patent abuse, both the big companies AND the patent trolls are guilty. The fact that software is IN ANY WAY patentable is atrocious. There is no reason that ideas like an icon grid should be able to be patented. I personally find it deplorable that anyone can patent a software idea, which is already covered by copyright. I, for instance, am a songwriter by trade, and as such if somebody rips off my song, I can sue them. Nonetheless, I certainly have no right to patent the idea of a song about sorrow, love, etc... Why should coders have any more right than I do? Basically we're both writers. It's not that I don't see your point (standing up for the current system), but I don't see why on earth you would defend such a reprehensible practice at all, even if you're employed by a company that benefits from it.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Ummm ...
by Lennie on Fri 15th Jul 2011 11:44 UTC in reply to "RE: Ummm ..."
Lennie Member since:
2007-09-22

"terrorism is not about killing people or making casualties. It's about scaring the crap out of your enemy."

Just today I read an article which was trying to make the point that the IRA made a lot more progress by not making casualties, but hitting financial centers like in London.

While fear might sound like a good idea to a potential terrorist, it turns out it isn't the way to get to your goal.

Anyway... waaaay off topic

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Ummm ...
by bhtooefr on Sat 16th Jul 2011 21:09 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Ummm ..."
bhtooefr Member since:
2009-02-19

Well, if your goal is to cripple a country, or better yet, get it to turn against its own values, fear actually works quite well. See: the US, in "a post 9/11 world".

Reply Score: 1

RE: Ummm ...
by JAlexoid on Fri 15th Jul 2011 00:39 UTC in reply to "Ummm ..."
JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

Furthermore, how many cases have we seen of larger companies filing patent lawsuits against small, independent developers? I'd assume that a lot of bad PR would go along with that, and bad PR is like kryptonite to these corporations. I'd also assume these large companies would be happier going after other large companies, where surely more money could be had. Why would they give two shits about some Joe working on a small app out of his bedroom?


There aren't any. None of the small companies can defend against someone like Microsoft, IBM or Oracle, so they just fold to their demands. The changes in the law would be there only to serve in a case similar to MS vs i4i on the side of MS.

Lodsys has demonstrated that trolls will target smaller companies without hesitation.
And another point, is that there are many, many more cases where patent trolls have got licensees quietly and you will never hear of it... ever.

Reply Score: 8

RE: Ummm ...
by TechGeek on Fri 15th Jul 2011 02:33 UTC in reply to "Ummm ..."
TechGeek Member since:
2006-01-14

Ummm, isn't this a case of a lawsuit going from a patent troll to a smaller company? Iconfactory is currently getting its ass handed to it by a patent troll, and this guy is blaming the larger companies who are trying to make it harder for patent trolls to abuse the system. So, what am I missing here?


What are you missing? Well for one its the larger companies who pleaded (probably greased with campaign money) to get software patents allowed. Microsoft makes a good show of standing up for patent reform when its in their favor. Notice how they argued that these patents are being used to hold their company hostage by the likes of i4i to the US Supreme Court. Yet at the EXACT same time, Microsoft lawyers were filing a law suit against Barnes and Noble over the use of Android in the Nook. Android, which Microsoft claims violates their oh-so-innovative software patents, is being raped by its main competitor.

Microsoft isn't interested in changing the system. They just want to control it so it only hurts their rivals.

Edited 2011-07-15 02:36 UTC

Reply Score: 6

RE[2]: Ummm ...
by MacTO on Fri 15th Jul 2011 02:53 UTC in reply to "RE: Ummm ..."
MacTO Member since:
2006-09-21

I don't know if Microsoft is in favor of a patent system that they control. But let's assume that they weren't for a moment. I know, that's a big assumption.

Microsoft knows as well as anyone else that the nice guy just doesn't win in business. They know that because they were the bully and they were the winner. Now that they are being threatened with patents, do you really expect them to lay down on the ground and wait the be run down on a matter of principle? Hell no. They know the bully makes the rules (after all, they were the bully) and if you want to get anywhere you have to play their game. And if that means patent protection rackets then that means patent protection rackets.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Ummm ...
by TechGeek on Fri 15th Jul 2011 03:07 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Ummm ..."
TechGeek Member since:
2006-01-14

See, I don't ever buy that argument. That's just an excuse for bad behavior. I don't see companies like Red Hat and others playing the patent protection racket game. Microsoft will do anything to succeed. Everyone knows that. Everyone also know Microsoft would stab them in the back for a penny.

I may be naive in thinking that businesses should be ethical. But there must be a lot of people like me as Ohio (who enacted ethical business laws) is seeing a large rise in incorporations within its state. Those companies will have the legal option of doing what is best for the community or its employees instead of strictly what makes the bottom line rise.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Ummm ...
by spinnekopje on Fri 15th Jul 2011 06:48 UTC in reply to "Ummm ..."
spinnekopje Member since:
2008-11-29

Furthermore, how many cases have we seen of larger companies filing patent lawsuits against small, independent developers?


The big companies can just follow those small ones and from the moment they write a very good piece of software they can offer them a little bit of money for it, but obviously not enough. If they don't agree, just threaten them with a lawsuit..

How many little companies will refuse even if they know it is not enough? a lawsuit will kill them anyway.

Reply Score: 2

v Equally vocal
by ourcomputerbloke on Thu 14th Jul 2011 22:13 UTC
RE: Equally vocal
by Bill Shooter of Bul on Thu 14th Jul 2011 22:38 UTC in reply to "Equally vocal"
Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

There is no more baby. Leaving the baby alone with the bathwater led to an unfortunate incident which will be leading to criminal charges of neglect in the near future.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Equally vocal
by JAlexoid on Fri 15th Jul 2011 00:48 UTC in reply to "Equally vocal"
JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

And for every one of those stories you'll find one of small developers who've been screwed over because they neglected to cover their butts with patents only to have one of the big software houses stomp them.


Come back when the legal fees of filing a patent isn't in the tens of thousands of your favourite currency. Then maybe the small guys could defend themselves.

Reply Score: 4

v Counterproductive advocacy
by rhavyn on Thu 14th Jul 2011 22:35 UTC
RE: Counterproductive advocacy
by tylerdurden on Thu 14th Jul 2011 23:12 UTC in reply to "Counterproductive advocacy"
tylerdurden Member since:
2009-03-17

Complains about appeal to emotion argument, bases argument around emotion...

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Counterproductive advocacy
by rhavyn on Thu 14th Jul 2011 23:28 UTC in reply to "RE: Counterproductive advocacy"
rhavyn Member since:
2005-07-06

Complains about appeal to emotion argument, bases argument around emotion...


Come again? I'm pretty sure my comment was based on perception and accuracy (i.e. inaccurate, emotional statements are perceived poorly).

Reply Score: 2

RE: Counterproductive advocacy
by kpugovkin on Thu 14th Jul 2011 23:55 UTC in reply to "Counterproductive advocacy"
kpugovkin Member since:
2011-07-05

The problem is, this is more or less completely factually incorrect. No one has a patent on a "grid of icons."

You underestimate intelligence of corporate legal staff and stupidity of US patent system. There are many crafty ruses to make a generic claim over a broad idea to look as if it is not and then sue people, who use the idea. And now we all are watching scrambles of such kind in The Big Bay Patent Fighting Arena. Obscure, cryptic Legaleeze is just one of those ruses. As an author of a patent, who worked with a patent attorney, I know what I'm talking about.
The post IS factually correct and a lot of common ideas are now covered by patents in one or another clever way.

Reply Score: 11

RE[2]: Counterproductive advocacy
by JAlexoid on Fri 15th Jul 2011 00:59 UTC in reply to "RE: Counterproductive advocacy"
JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

+1'000'000!

Corporate legal teams that deal with patent applications like at a conveyor can twist words so badly that an inventor can end up not understanding what was patented....

Reply Score: 2

RE: Counterproductive advocacy
by JAlexoid on Fri 15th Jul 2011 00:56 UTC in reply to "Counterproductive advocacy"
JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

As I've said in previous posts, abuse of the patent system is a problem. However, the kind of advocacy shown by posts like this is completely counter productive.


Well maybe a system that allows abuse should be changed IMMEDIATELLY?
And please read the damn U.S. Patent No. 7,222,078, it's not as simple as a grid of icons but does fall under such idiocy.

The statement "grid of icons can be patented" is as emotional statement as "without software patents there will be no software R&D". However, I don't see you debunking the second one.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Counterproductive advocacy
by rhavyn on Fri 15th Jul 2011 03:06 UTC in reply to "RE: Counterproductive advocacy"
rhavyn Member since:
2005-07-06

"As I've said in previous posts, abuse of the patent system is a problem. However, the kind of advocacy shown by posts like this is completely counter productive.


Well maybe a system that allows abuse should be changed IMMEDIATELLY?
And please read the damn U.S. Patent No. 7,222,078, it's not as simple as a grid of icons but does fall under such idiocy.
"

What system doesn't allow abuse? And how do you propose changing the patent system?

The statement "grid of icons can be patented" is as emotional statement as "without software patents there will be no software R&D". However, I don't see you debunking the second one.


Point me at a website where the predominant opinion is that without patents there would be no software development and I would. I personally don't know of such a website, nor of anyone who is really making that argument.

Reply Score: 2

TechGeek Member since:
2006-01-14

As a rebuttal to the argument that software patents drive innovation and creativity, lets think about how things have progressed since 1950. We started out with no patents and not even copyright on the code. It didn't matter as you probably couldn't run the software with out the hardware anyway. We had all kinds of growth and all kinds of different ideas.

Now fast forward to today. We have Microsoft in first with 90% share. They use their patents to bash Android instead of making a better product. We have Apple and the rest of the mobile market being sue happy. We have patent trolls. We have less choice and less innovation. Are we really better off with patents? I dont think so.

Reply Score: 6

RE[4]: Counterproductive advocacy
by rhavyn on Fri 15th Jul 2011 03:54 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Counterproductive advocacy"
rhavyn Member since:
2005-07-06

Now fast forward to today. We have Microsoft in first with 90% share. They use their patents to bash Android instead of making a better product.


Another emotional, factually incorrect statement. First I'm pretty sure Microsoft doesn't have a 90% share in anything. Second, Microsoft is producing and continually improving a very well received (even by Thom) mobile operating system. Just because a company chooses to use the legal system doesn't mean they aren't producing and competing with a good product too.

We have Apple and the rest of the mobile market being sue happy. We have patent trolls. We have less choice and less innovation. Are we really better off with patents? I dont think so.


You think we have less choice and innovation in software than in the 50's? Do you think that maybe, just maybe, this is the kind of factually incorrect emotional kind of post that I was talking about?

Reply Score: 0

TechGeek Member since:
2006-01-14

"Now fast forward to today. We have Microsoft in first with 90% share. They use their patents to bash Android instead of making a better product.


Another emotional, factually incorrect statement. First I'm pretty sure Microsoft doesn't have a 90% share in anything. Second, Microsoft is producing and continually improving a very well received (even by Thom) mobile operating system. Just because a company chooses to use the legal system doesn't mean they aren't producing and competing with a good product too.

We have Apple and the rest of the mobile market being sue happy. We have patent trolls. We have less choice and less innovation. Are we really better off with patents? I dont think so.


You think we have less choice and innovation in software than in the 50's? Do you think that maybe, just maybe, this is the kind of factually incorrect emotional kind of post that I was talking about?
"

Its pretty well known that Microsoft has a 90%+ share of the desktop market. Second, their WP7 OS is a flop. According to Gartner, Microsoft occupies less than 5% of the mobile market. So I would say that they are NOT competing by making a decent product.

I am not saying we have less choice. I am saying there was no explosion of innovation all of a sudden when software patents were suddenly allowed. We are still basing our OS's off of designs from the 60's and 70's when most of them weren't even copyrighted. So all this intellectual property protection obviously hasn't done anything good.

Reply Score: 4

RE[6]: Counterproductive advocacy
by rhavyn on Fri 15th Jul 2011 05:04 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Counterproductive advocacy"
rhavyn Member since:
2005-07-06

Its pretty well known that Microsoft has a 90%+ share of the desktop market. Second, their WP7 OS is a flop. According to Gartner, Microsoft occupies less than 5% of the mobile market. So I would say that they are NOT competing by making a decent product.


It's pretty well known they have a 90%+ share huh? http://itsalltech.com/2011/07/12/windows-loses-market-share-as-micr...

And they occupy less than 5% of the market? http://m.thenextweb.com/thenextweb/#!/entry/microsofts-mobile-marke...

The one thing we can say for sure, there isn't a statistic you aren't willing to make up.


I am not saying we have less choice. I am saying there was no explosion of innovation all of a sudden when software patents were suddenly allowed. We are still basing our OS's off of designs from the 60's and 70's when most of them weren't even copyrighted. So all this intellectual property protection obviously hasn't done anything good.


Would you like to double check your assertion about the copyright status of operating systems from the 70s or are cool with being wrong regarding absolutely every "fact" in your post? I mean you are a case study in emotional factually incorrect statements.

Edited 2011-07-15 05:06 UTC

Reply Score: 2

TechGeek Member since:
2006-01-14

Rhavyn,

Are you some kind of idiot? Seriously! You linked to articles that pretty much have the exact same info that I was looking at. Apple has been eating at Microsoft in the last couple years, Microsoft is at 86% roughly.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_operating_systems

As for Mobile OS market share, all you had to do was look at wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_operating_system#Market_share_b...

The page you linked to only specified smartphone subscribers. I don't know if that makes a difference to the data but even if it does its less that 1%.

As for copyright, you obviously aren't old enough to know that before the Copyright Act of 1976, you had to register to receive copyright on something. Part of the reason for the settlement of the AT&T vs BSD case was because AT&T hadn't copyrighted most of the Unix source code. After 1976, copyright was automatic upon creation of the work.

Reply Score: 3

JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

It's pretty well known they have a 90%+ share huh? http://itsalltech.com/2011/07/12/windows-loses-market-share-as-micr...

And they occupy less than 5% of the market? http://m.thenextweb.com/thenextweb/#!/entry/microsofts-mobile-marke...

The one thing we can say for sure, there isn't a statistic you aren't willing to make up.


Sooo... Since when are iOS, Java ME and Android desktop OS'es?

On the second statistic, that 7% still includes all of the WinMo devices. So yes, their WP7 has that smallish sub 1/20th of the market.

Reply Score: 2

macinnisrr Member since:
2009-11-12

Are you honestly contesting that 88% market share on the desktop is not the same as 90%? Way to nitpick.

Reply Score: 1

RE[5]: Counterproductive advocacy
by Alfman on Fri 15th Jul 2011 05:13 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Counterproductive advocacy"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

rhavyn,

"You think we have less choice and innovation in software than in the 50's? Do you think that maybe, just maybe, this is the kind of factually incorrect emotional kind of post that I was talking about?"

Beware, the following is an "emotional kind of post".


The 50s were obviously way to early to consider consumer gear. However I do think that innovation is in decline today compared to all previous decades in my lifetime.

There are too many leaches in the economy, from frivolous lawsuits, patent trolls, wallstreet, bank bailouts, political corruption, monopolies, education prices, and inflation, we are paralyzed. More and more of the economy is driven by cheap goods which gets built with offshore workers. Corporations consolidate into conglomerates and lay off scores of skilled workers. In the mean time largest MNCs can use complex loopholes to pay zero taxes. The small businesses, who are collectively the biggest employers, are left carrying the burden and cannot compete.

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2008/08/13/study-tallies-corporations-n...

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/general-electric-paid-federal-taxes-...

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-callahan/googles-tax-avoidance-...


Big business influence on the US government is astounding. They've been the primary beneficiary of trillions of dollars in tax cuts and hand outs over the past decade. I suppose it may not matter to all of you, but I personally had to watch my tax dollars pay for these big business entitlements, who did nothing to deserve them.

No, this is not innovation, it's profiteering. I'd gladly take the 50s over today. This way, I might live to see man go to the moon instead of the dismantling of the space program.


Edit: Also, they probably could have used a good computer programmer like me. Today there are more of us than jobs.

Edited 2011-07-15 05:21 UTC

Reply Score: 6

RE[6]: Counterproductive advocacy
by rhavyn on Fri 15th Jul 2011 05:32 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Counterproductive advocacy"
rhavyn Member since:
2005-07-06

Edit: Also, they probably could have used a good computer programmer like me. Today there are more of us than jobs.


I don't know where you live but in Silicon Valley there are definitely more jobs than qualified candidates for software engineering positions. But beware, most Silicon Valley software companies file for patents.

Reply Score: 2

RE[7]: Counterproductive advocacy
by Alfman on Fri 15th Jul 2011 06:55 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: Counterproductive advocacy"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

rhavyn,

Someone I know used to live near there and said there were empty buildings everywhere and that it looked like a deserted ghost town. I don't know how true it is, but on employment boards SV has a reputation for being much less viable than it once was:

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6987699n

Then again it could all be bias. All I know is that it has been extremely frustrating for me. I have exceptional skill in some areas, but getting a job which fits is a never-ending struggle. I resort to doing low end webdev work, mostly through connections, but the pay is terrible and the work is boring - I'm an algorithm guy. I'm quite depressed about it, I don't know what to do any more.

...enough with the personal sob story though, on to better topics!

Reply Score: 3

JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

Just because a company chooses to use the legal system doesn't mean they aren't producing and competing with a good product too.


When they are forcing patent licenses to be applied globally, they are abusing the US system to force the patents in countries that don't have them. Abusing is not the same as using. And MS is abusing.

PS: They do have 90% share of desktop OS.

Reply Score: 3

RE[6]: Counterproductive advocacy
by rhavyn on Fri 15th Jul 2011 18:24 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Counterproductive advocacy"
rhavyn Member since:
2005-07-06

When they are forcing patent licenses to be applied globally, they are abusing the US system to force the patents in countries that don't have them. Abusing is not the same as using. And MS is abusing.


You're going to have to explain this because I have no idea what it means.

Edited 2011-07-15 18:25 UTC

Reply Score: 2

JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

HTC pays MS a patent license fee off ever single Android phone they make, not only those that end up in US.(That is not really provable, due to the associated NDA that comes with the license agreement. But Bloomberg is a good source of info for me.)

When I see the price of an HTC phone in the store in my own country(that does not have any software patents valid) I see a price with that patent licence included.
Now, Taiwan, is not one of the countries with software patents, neither is China. None of the phones in my store have ever been to US, they are not made by an American corporation and they are not sold in a location where US law applies.
So why the hell does the phone have that license fee included? It's basically abusing the US system to force a US patent down my throat.

I said it once and I'll say it again - Even Lodsys is more ethical than Microsoft at this point. Lodsys asks royalties only on US sales.

Reply Score: 3

JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

What system doesn't allow abuse? And how do you propose changing the patent system?


Thankfully the patent system in my country is the type that I like and did a lot to preserve it's sanity.

Frankly, don't really care about US patent system as long as US government and US corporations don't try to export it and force it on us. In addition, I'd love to see that the access to US market is not used as a tool to practically enforce US patents on other countries(see "the most ethical" work that MS is doing).

Reply Score: 3

RE: Counterproductive advocacy
by TechGeek on Fri 15th Jul 2011 02:20 UTC in reply to "Counterproductive advocacy"
TechGeek Member since:
2006-01-14

As I've said in previous posts, abuse of the patent system is a problem. However, the kind of advocacy shown by posts like this is completely counter productive. For example:

"If things like a grid of icons can be patented [...]


The problem is, this is more or less completely factually incorrect. No one has a patent on a "grid of icons." It's completely counter productive to make emotional, factually incorrect statements and parade around as though thats a reason to change things. Learn to read a patent (yes, it requires being educated to learn exactly what the language used means) and accurately relate the problem with the patent. Otherwise you're just going to get tuned out as a crazy ... seriously, there is a reason why RMS is considered a poor evangelist for free software, OSNews is becoming the RMS of the anti-patent world.
"

You want an example: Microsoft was granted a patent on sudo. SUDO! How many DECADES has that been in Unix like systems? 3-4? That a company can actually get a patent on that is absurd. Just like the obvious implementation of long file names in FAT. Its just an abbreviation using 2 chars. How does that qualify as innovative? The patent system is broken. Software patents are just the most obvious place it shows.

Reply Score: 9

RE[2]: Counterproductive advocacy
by rhavyn on Fri 15th Jul 2011 03:01 UTC in reply to "RE: Counterproductive advocacy"
rhavyn Member since:
2005-07-06

You want an example: Microsoft was granted a patent on sudo. SUDO! How many DECADES has that been in Unix like systems? 3-4? That a company can actually get a patent on that is absurd. Just like the obvious implementation of long file names in FAT. Its just an abbreviation using 2 chars. How does that qualify as innovative? The patent system is broken. Software patents are just the most obvious place it shows.


The patent number is? I'd like to read it.

Edited 2011-07-15 03:08 UTC

Reply Score: 2

galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

The patent number is? I'd like to read it.


Its Patent Number 7,617,530. However, it is/was not even related to SUDO... The whole notion that it was is nothing more than the result of ill-informed people not knowing how to read a patent spreading gossip. Even the maintainer of SUDO at the time (Todd Miller) conceded it was unrelated.

Having said that - I am violently opposed to the concept of software patents for a multitude of reasons. But I also believe in honesty - 7,617,530 is not and never was an example of the real problems in the patent system. It was much ado about nothing.

If you want a good example, look at 5,893,120: "methods and apparatus for information storage and retrieval using a hashing technique with external chaining and on-the-fly removal of expired data." Google recently good sued by a patent troll over this one and lost. The offending code is actually in the Linux kernel - Google was only targeted because of the size of their pocket book (another common problem in the patent system, but I digress).

There isn't much more to it than the title of the patent - pretty much sums it up. The problem with this patent is simple:

1. Chained hashes had a multitude of examples of prior art.
2. Removal of items from a data structure during updates (i.e. self pruning) also had a multitude of examples of prior art.

There are literally thousands of patents that follow fall into this mold. The patent system allows the combination of 2 obvious inventions with prior art into a "new" one. The rationale is the combination is unique and makes it a new invention. The reality is this rationale is mind-numbing-ly stupid to anyone that does software development.

The fact that you can take two things OTHER people invented and combine them and claim ownership is absurd, but it happens all the fricken' time. Software simply should not be patent-able. period.

The problem is the rare instances where someone actually comes up with a truly unique software invention that deserves patent protection are so rare as to almost be non-existent. On top of that, it is (most of the time) relatively easy to work around a known patent in the software world with little or no downside (if you have the money and resources to do so). The system does not encourage innovation in any way, shape, or form - it simply creates a minefield where in order to survive you file patents to cover you ass and your patent portfolio grows into a bat you beat people over the head with to make them submit. It actively encourages the formation of defacto cartels through all the crazy cross licensing agreements that come about because of patent suits in large corporations. And it costs tens of thousands of dollars to do the due diligence required to actually file a software patent properly. This tips the scales heavily in favor of those with deep pockets - the exact opposite of what the system was designed to do.

How exactly does such a system foster innovation?

Reply Score: 8

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

How exactly does such a system foster innovation?


It doesn't. And even people like the ones defending the system here know that, deep down.

The problem is that there are a lot of people who have identified themselves with one company or the other. If such a company is a heavy proponent of software patents (Microsoftapple is the one we talk about the most here), then these people can do two things: stop identifying themselves with said company, or defend software patents. Since their identification with the company contributes more to their self-concept than their dislike of the patent system... Well, the path os least resistance.

If you ever want to see Festinger's cognitive dissonance theory at work, you just have to look around you (and yourself, of course). Daring Fireball's John Gruber is a pretty good poster child for this theory also. For instance, only a few weeks ago he was complaining loudly about New York photographer Jay Maisel who got $32500 out of someone using one of his photos. Maisel was a dick, according to Gruber.

Right at the same time, the web was a'blaze with Apple's legal threats against small open source projects using the App Store name. It was all over the web. Not a peep on DA.

This is cognitive dissonance, and it's probably the best predictor of human behaviour ever. If you ever think - why would people do something this stupid? Why are they being disingenuous? - it's probably this.

Reply Score: 5

RE[4]: Counterproductive advocacy
by Alfman on Fri 15th Jul 2011 07:14 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Counterproductive advocacy"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

galvanash,

That's very well said. Productive companies will do fine without software patents; the idea needs to be free, the code does not.

(I know rhavn, you'd like me to include all patents in my argument).

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Counterproductive advocacy
by rhavyn on Fri 15th Jul 2011 16:32 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Counterproductive advocacy"
rhavyn Member since:
2005-07-06

"The patent number is? I'd like to read it.


Its Patent Number 7,617,530. However, it is/was not even related to SUDO... The whole notion that it was is nothing more than the result of ill-informed people not knowing how to read a patent spreading gossip. Even the maintainer of SUDO at the time (Todd Miller) conceded it was unrelated.
"

TechGeek seems to be the purified essence of what I'm saying, full of factually incorrect, emotionally charged statements that do nothing to help the cause.

You, on the other hand, actually wrote a post with a great example, factual information and you didn't need to resort to all out hysteria to do it. Congratulations, I wish there were a lot more posts like yours on here, and a lot less like Thom and TechGeeks.

Reply Score: 1

IP property == extra cheap money
by kpugovkin on Thu 14th Jul 2011 22:54 UTC
kpugovkin
Member since:
2011-07-05

It's all started when US companies began considering ideas as Intellectual Property. Now they try to claim possession of the ideas, that are not yet 'owned' by others. US pocket corporate government and USPO are helping them in doing that.
The main goal is actually to receive IP rent from the other countries in future, as Hollywood movies and American cars gets less popular.
BTW. Can anyone in future claim ownership of the whole Universe and become The Omnipotent God to other humans?

Reply Score: 5

RE: IP property == extra cheap money
by _txf_ on Thu 14th Jul 2011 23:02 UTC in reply to "IP property == extra cheap money"
_txf_ Member since:
2008-03-17

in future, as Hollywood movies and American cars gets less popular.
BTW. Can anyone in future claim ownership of the whole Universe and become The Omnipotent God to other humans?


Movies fall under copyrights not patents. Also american cars are a piece of sh*t, not sure how much less popular they can get (they're even unpopular within the US, let alone the rest of the world).

Reply Score: 3

kpugovkin Member since:
2011-07-05

Copyrighted or not, movies made the big part of The Great American Cultural Expansion, that brought a lot of money here. It was like fraudulently exchanging beads and whiskey for gold and territory with Native Indian Americans.
Now patents will try to do the same job.

Reply Score: 2

Old-school solution
by AdamW on Fri 15th Jul 2011 00:36 UTC
AdamW
Member since:
2005-07-06

Y'know, it just occurred to me to wonder why no-one's yet tried the old-school solution to this problem. It's generally agreed that software patents are good for patent trolls, that large software companies can usually manage to come out about even if they play their cards right, but that they're pretty much death for small software companies and independent developers.

So, small software companies and independent developers complain, but never seem to get any traction because, well, they're small. Most big software companies don't say much one way or the other because they all secretly think they can win the big patent lottery by having better lawyers than the other guy.

What do you do if you're a bunch of small people trying to get your voices heard against the big people? Federate! Or, to use a word that's anathema to American ears, *unionize*! Why is there no federation of independent software developers yelling itself hoarse about this? Any one developer or small shop is a drop in the ocean, but an organization representing thousands of them might actually be able to get itself heard by the right ears.

Reply Score: 6

RE: Old-school solution
by ricegf on Fri 15th Jul 2011 01:25 UTC in reply to "Old-school solution"
ricegf Member since:
2007-04-25

Where do I sign up?

Reply Score: 4

RE: Old-school solution
by jack_perry on Fri 15th Jul 2011 02:28 UTC in reply to "Old-school solution"
jack_perry Member since:
2005-07-06

"Form a co-op" would be a far more accurate, if less catchy, term than "unionize".

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Old-school solution
by JAlexoid on Fri 15th Jul 2011 15:20 UTC in reply to "RE: Old-school solution"
JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

It's not as socialist sounding as unionise. Most Americans for some* reason think that socialist means undemocratic and anti-freedom, while capitalism** is democracy and freedom.

* - Not some, they've been thoroughly brainwashed.
** - While only two undemocratic regimes on this planet , in fact, identify as socialist/communist.

Reply Score: 2

Several Possible Solutions ...
by MacTO on Fri 15th Jul 2011 02:32 UTC
MacTO
Member since:
2006-09-21

1) Software developers can patent-mine, basing their products entirely upon expired patents. Of course that has the negative effect that the software industry will be held back 20 years, but it will be an ample demonstration of how patents encourage innovation.

2) Reform the legal system so that the jurisdiction is mutually agreeable to both parties. My understanding is that jurors can be excluded for possible sources of bias, well why not judges?

3) Reform the patent system. Of course some people want radical reforms (e.g. forbidding software patents), but I think that simple measures will cut down on malicious lawsuits.

3a) require a functional implementation be submitted with the patent application as source code in a real programming language. The patent trolls will disappear because there will be no ambiguity to base legal arguments on. Real patent suits can continue because it becomes possible to compare implementations.

3b) There also needs to be some responsibility placed on patent holders to maintain their patents. It can take many forms: actually producing products that implement the patent, actively licensing the patents to other vendors, or perhaps limiting damages to within one year of filing suit (so that they don't conveniently notice the patent violation 10 years later).

I think most people here agree that things have to change. But instead of bitching and moaning, maybe we should be swapping ideas (and preferably ideas that legislators may accept).

Reply Score: 3

RE: Several Possible Solutions ...
by Alfman on Fri 15th Jul 2011 03:45 UTC in reply to "Several Possible Solutions ..."
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

MacTO,

Certainly, including a working source implementation in software patent applications is a huge improvement over today's patent document mess. All patents (software or not) should be written using well established jargon and legalize should be expressly prohibited. This would bring back one of the original justifications for patents - advancing public knowledge through publication. It is a tragedy that this was lost in the first place.

I assume you'll agree with everything said so far.

However we're at a point in modern times where we have vast quantities of public knowledge in the form of the web which works better than the patent system ever did, or ever could hope to do.

Your proposal seeks to mitigate some of the harms caused by patents today, that's nice, but it does not (yet) seem to address why we should need software patents in the first place. The majority of small devs have never benefited from software patents. We don't need them, we don't want them, we cannot afford them.

Anyway I thank for contributing without resorting to inflammatory remarks. For some reason may of the other patent discussions as of late attract too much fire.

Edited 2011-07-15 03:49 UTC

Reply Score: 2

US problem
by Timii on Fri 15th Jul 2011 06:31 UTC
Timii
Member since:
2010-03-05

Software patents is US problem and I think software developers should not sell theirs programs in US if they are afraid of patents trolls. There is huge markets out side of US.

Reply Score: 2

RE: US problem
by sicofante on Tue 19th Jul 2011 00:16 UTC in reply to "US problem"
sicofante Member since:
2009-07-08

Exactly.

I had to scan the whole comments section to reach a comment like yours. It's so obvious I couldn't believe no one had mentioned this.

The US market should be just abandoned by small devs. If you are a small developer and you're approached by the legal department of a giant, just put a big red stamp on your website reading "For sale outside the US only", explain why you're doing this including an e-mail address of the company bullying you and let your customers do the protesting. Then just enjoy selling your stuff to European users (and other parts of the world, of course).

If you didn't know yet, the internet is accessible world-wide...

Edited 2011-07-19 00:25 UTC

Reply Score: 1

Nice article
by matako on Fri 15th Jul 2011 07:50 UTC
matako
Member since:
2009-02-13

EDIT: wrong thread

Edited 2011-07-15 07:53 UTC

Reply Score: 1

That's what patents do.
by wannabe geek on Fri 15th Jul 2011 09:19 UTC
wannabe geek
Member since:
2006-09-27

Software patents are almost killing the software revolution, just like, arguably, hardware patents almost killed the industrial revolution since the 18th century.

For instance, steam engine innovation stalled until Watt's patents expired:


Prior to the start of Watt’s commercial production in 1776, there were 510 steam engines in the U.K., most using the inefficient Newcomen design. These engines generated about 5,000 horsepower. By 1800, when Watt's patents expired, there were still only 2,250 steam engines used in the U.K., of which only 449 were
the superior Boulton and Watt engines, the rest being old Newcomen engines. The total horsepower of these engines was 35,000 at best. In 1815, fifteen years after the expiration of the Watt patents, it is estimated that nearly 100,000 horsepower was installed
in the U.K., while by 1830 the horsepower coming from steam engines reached 160,000. The fuel efficiency of steam engines is not thought to have changed at all during the period of Watt’s patent; while between 1810 and 1835 it is estimated to have increased by a factor of five.


Source:"Against Intellectual Monopoly" ,Boldrin and Levine

http://www.amazon.com/Against-Intellectual-Monopoly-Michele-Boldrin...

http://levine.sscnet.ucla.edu/general/intellectual/against.htm

Reply Score: 6

Just put a monetary value on patents
by unclefester on Fri 15th Jul 2011 10:54 UTC
unclefester
Member since:
2007-01-13

Patent owners should have a realistic monetary value placed on their patents by the government according to the documented time and cost of development.

A patent for a simple idea (eg a software algorithm) that cost <$100,000 and three months to develop should only be valid for a very short period (2-3 years). However something that cost >$100 million (eg a new pharmaceutical product) should get a much longer patent (15-25 years).

Edited 2011-07-15 10:55 UTC

Reply Score: 3

US specific?
by snowbender on Fri 15th Jul 2011 11:29 UTC
snowbender
Member since:
2006-05-04

I wonder how much this problem is US specific? If you are an independent developer based in Europe, distributing your software exclusively online from a Europe-based website, can you be targeted by a US-based company with software patents? What if you do not allow sales to American customers? Or is the patent system in Europe the same bad in the mean time?

It reminds me about all the lawsuits based on software patents between cell phone companies (HTC, Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Nokia,...). If HTC would not sell Android phones on the American market, would Microsoft still be able to attack HTC?

The problem is that America really loves to force its own views and laws onto other countries. It is pushing Europe into enforcing stricter IP laws.

Reply Score: 3

The US will suffer
by unclefester on Fri 15th Jul 2011 12:01 UTC
unclefester
Member since:
2007-01-13

Software development will simply move more quickly to other countries where software patents are invalid eg India, China, Brazil and Russia

Reply Score: 3

RE: The US will suffer
by Timii on Fri 15th Jul 2011 12:16 UTC in reply to "The US will suffer"
Timii Member since:
2010-03-05

It's not only the development but it's also selling softwares in US. You can't sell any software in US if they think that it could violate some software patents. So don't sell anything in US and you got no problems.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: The US will suffer
by JAlexoid on Fri 15th Jul 2011 15:27 UTC in reply to "RE: The US will suffer"
JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

Or you add a disclaimer saying, that person buying the software is technically importing goods into US. And the entity that is importing goods is liable that the goods that infringe patents...

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: The US will suffer
by unclefester on Sat 16th Jul 2011 04:47 UTC in reply to "RE: The US will suffer"
unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

The US is nowhere near as important as people think. It only represents about 5% of the world's population and about 20% of the global economy.

Within 20 years the USA will just be another middle sized economic power and it's rules will be totally ignored.

Reply Score: 2

patent news
by fran on Fri 15th Jul 2011 12:46 UTC
fran
Member since:
2010-08-06

I think many of OSnews readers including me dont mind the patent news.
What perplex me is the other stories in the submission section ignored for the sake of patent news. And there is some good stuff being skipped regularly.
Many probably never submit anymore for this reason.

Reply Score: 2

RE: patent news
by JAlexoid on Fri 15th Jul 2011 15:28 UTC in reply to "patent news"
JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

Editors have the benefit of pushing though their own articles first.

Reply Score: 2

A difficult conondrum
by imaginant on Fri 15th Jul 2011 13:07 UTC
imaginant
Member since:
2010-02-26

A well balanced article expressing a critical point. Notice he focuses on the aim of the developer on pursuing that for which he has great passion. Life would be much happier for all of us if this were our focus, as long as that passion wasn't a wish for gobs and gobs of money. Greed has taken over over the world and is held in place by capitalism. But capitalism has one great weakness. It requires constant growth. If you truly and honestly hate what has happened the solution is simple. Stop buying. Buy only what you absolutely NEED for the next year, and watch what happens. It would be great if you did this, but you really don't need too. If you do nothing, capitalism will experience a complete meltdown within two years, probably less. What happens next will be very painful for all of the world, except the very poor who are used to having nothing. When you are in the middle of this (and wondering what the hell happened) remember this article. Help rebuild a new system that promotes the freedom to pursue your passion. Maybe no one will be able to get rich again, but then maybe we really won't care because we will having so much fun doing what we love. The writing is in the wall but hard to read if you are young... or even middle aged. It was a long, long, long, time ago when the world was not driven by money. Be glad that time is returning in a improved form. Do you part and reduce your spending to as little as possible.

Reply Score: 2

rebel787
Member since:
2007-01-13

Innovation are definately being held back by patents.

I fondly remember mandrake 8.02 + enlightenment awesomeness a decade ago - it's been made all too clear that we're being held back.
That we're waaaaaay behind where we could and should be.
Only in recent times do I feel current distro's are besting decade old distro's.

Reply Score: 1

It will never change
by howitzer86 on Fri 15th Jul 2011 21:23 UTC
howitzer86
Member since:
2008-02-27

As bad as it is, the patent system will never change in a million years.

Large companies have invested billions of dollars into it, and these same operations heavily lobby the government. They have more say in the affairs of our nation than we civilians ever will.

Things will NEVER change. The best you can do is understand the situation going in, prepare for lawsuits, and eventually pay into the system yourself (buy licenses and over time develop a patent war-chest).

Edited 2011-07-15 21:32 UTC

Reply Score: 1

What is Intellectual Property?
by Lousewort on Sat 16th Jul 2011 20:37 UTC
Lousewort
Member since:
2006-09-12

Reading the gist of the other comments led me to wondering....

Where it comes to inventions, it used to be pretty straightforward say a century ago; If I invented something, I could prototype it, and patent it, and that would stop people from taking my invention to market without paying me for the research & hard work.

These days, the above still applies, for example in pharmaceuticals manufacture, where the actual development money goes into the formula, and manufacture is relatively cheap.

The part that patents are supposed to protect, is the investment in research & development. The question is, does this apply to software development?

In cases such as the Lempel Zif compression algorithm, developed and patented (now expired) in around 1979, it's pretty clear that it does. In something like the "one click shopping", I would suggest that it does not. What is the difference?

Well, in the Lempel Zif case, considerable time, research and development resources went into it's formulation. In the "One Click" case, it could clearly have been thought up overnight, and is more a business method than an invention.

The problem is, that when it comes to valuing the first against the second, the "One Click" would attract the greater license fee, simply because you can make more money from using the method. In other words, something like the extended DOS file system is considered valuable not because it's particularly smart, but because it's more widely in use.

This is why some really simple and obvious patents can effectively shut down companies such as TomTom, or at least severely damage them. It does not matter how much actual intellect went into the patent; it matters only how much money is being made by it's use. So, patent value is being determined according to estimated risk rather than R&D costs.

Never mind the 99.9999% actual intellect behind the product, and the fact that an infringing patent comprises 0.0001% of the actual intellectual value of the complete product, you are going to have to pay whatever the patent holder demands for a license, which might be a substantial proportion of revenue.

This seems unfair to me, and this injustice is what makes patent trolling profitable.

So, the question is not so much whether we should protect intellectual property, including software innovations and inventions, but how in fact to place a value to this property.

If a company has say 30 000 patents, and has a net asset value of for argument sake 30 Million, then how much of the company asset value resides in patents?

If one were to examine the balance sheet of most companies, one would find a line item called "intangible assets", normally a fraction of net asset value. If one were to insist that each of a company's patents be pre-allocated a fixed value on registration, with a total value not exceeding the reported intangible asset value, you may find that individual patents are not always as valuable as are made out.

Patent trolls are companies with assets comprising entirely of intangible assets (patents, copyright, trademarks). Introduce a law stating that no company may have more than 1% of net asset value in intangible assets, and patent trolls are gone.

Reply Score: 1