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.

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RE[4]: Help me
by oskeladden on Sun 6th Jul 2014 20:20 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Help me"
oskeladden
Member since:
2009-08-05

Isn't the answer obvious? The legal climate *caused* by the patent system makes it necessary to amass a patent portfolio just to defend oneself. Unfortunately this costs developers a great deal of money and time, which is very hard to recoup unless you begin to use the patent portfolio offensively.


I agree with much of what you say in your excellent comment, Alfman, but the problems run much deeper than this. The trouble is that engineers and the chap in the street tend to think in terms of inventions, and believe that intellectual property should protect inventions. The fellows in the C-Suite, joined eagerly by politicians and many bureaucrats, in contrast, think in terms of innovation, and believe that IP law should protect innovation - by which they mean anything that creates a better way of doing something and thereby gives the 'innovator' a competitive edge. These two world views are fundamentally incommensurable. What we're seeing not just in relation to the sorry saga of software patents but in a whole range of other areas is the creeping triumph of innovation over invention.

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