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: Ugh...
by henderson101 on Wed 9th Jul 2014 12:03 UTC in reply to "Ugh..."
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First off, the 'it's not innovation!' point. Who's to say it isn't? There are several 'engines' out there for swiping text. By this, I mean how does it pick a word? Does it support grammar? Does it have a database of words the user tends to use a lot? Can you add new words?

It would be innovative if it brought a new twist to the table. The algorithm he used to predict the text might be innovative, but hen might just be a re-use of another pattern matching algorithm - without looking it's hard to say. It's certainly impressive, but as it takes something that already existed and creates a version that mimics the original* - well, it's just the same as a knock off Rolex. It might be as good, it might not. It's not doing anything new or different, and the internals could easily be a lot worse.

* I know some have debated what "original" means, but as he was basing it on the Swype style keyboard, that would be my definition. Prior art is irrelevant unless he researched the prior art and documented the fact.

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