Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 4th Jul 2014 12:57 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

A Sailfish developer (third party, so not affiliated with Jolla) has developed a swipe keyboard for Jolla. It's essentially done and ready to go, but he was too afraid to release it. The reason?

I'd like to release this as an open source project, but at the moment I'm not comfortable with the patent issue (I'm interested in any advice on this topic). I live in a country outside the US (and without software patents), so should I just find a code hosting service with no relation with the US?

Fellow Sailfish developers and users chimed in, arguing he should be fine with releasing it as open source and hosting it outside of the US, with a warning that it should not be used in the US. He has accepted this advice, and is currently working on releasing it. While this is great news for Sailfish users, this does highlight the destructive nature of software patents.

Since he's going to release the code as open source, we can be 100% sure that none of the code in there is stolen from Swype and that none of it violates the open source license governing possible other swipe-like functionality (e.g. Google's Android keyboard). Ergo, he has developed this on his own, and has produced his own code, or used code that is freely available. It's a fruit of his labour, possibly infused with code that was meant to be used in a sharing manner.

And yet, despite the above, it's very likely that yes, he is violating a bunch of patents by producing this keyboard, and is, potentially, running a risk. I'm not so sure the legal advice given in the thread holds up - I'm not a lawyer, and neither are (I'm assuming) the people in the thread - but I'm at least happy he is willing to run the risk for us.

Now, I ask you: is this fair? Is this the future that we want for developers and programmers? Is this the message that the United States government, its technology companies, and said companies' public advocates want to send to aspiring hobby developers the world over? Should Europe, India, China, and the rest of the world just accept this?

I'm sure the proponents of software patents will wave this away to solve their state of cognitive dissonance, but I'm honestly and seriously worried about the developers who have not released, are not releasing, or will not release their code because of the bribes changing hands from Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Google, and the rest to Washington legislators.

Patents are supposed to spur innovation, not hinder it.

Permalink for comment 591926
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
RE[7]: ...
by Luis on Sat 5th Jul 2014 09:28 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: ..."
Luis
Member since:
2006-04-28

Ideas cannot be patented. It's the implementation of an idea that can be.

I can't patent the idea of a vehicle that goes above the pavement anything between 2cm and 2m without touching it (no wheels), and wait for someone to actually invent a way of doing it to sue him for patent infringement.

Ideas are cheap. The hard part is to make them real, with a viable technique (which also has to be non-obvious). That specific and non-obvious implementation of the idea is what you can patent.

In the case of software the implementation of an idea is... the code itself. So yes, you cannot copy someone's code. The problem here is that the code is already protected by copyright. And moreover, patented code is usually not publicly available, so how could someone copy it unless they stole it somehow?

If this guy wrote his own code without copying any patented code (which seems clear, since that patented code is closed source), it means that his implementation is original and unique. Even if we found great coincidences between his code and the patented code it could easily be argued that it means that those specific parts of the implementation are obvious, that's why both did it the same way without copying each other. Obvious things cannot be patented.

In this specific case we're taking about you might say that the patents are not hindering innovation (though we don't really know - the code this guy wrote might really be innovative in some ways and much better than the patented one), but they do hinder competition, which is equally bad.

As someone said above, if we applied this patent system to arts (literature, painting, music, cinema), they would mostly cease to exist in their multiple forms as we know them. Someone would patent "a story where a man falls in love with a woman and they live a good story together but in the end they split up and suffer", and that would be the end of all movies, music and books.

Reply Parent Score: 6