Apparently, this is a major victory of the patent system. This, this right here, this is what the patent system has come to. This is the destructive effect it’s having on this once beautiful industry. Thanks to trolls like Apple and Microsoft, basic, elemental functionality is being removed from devices people already own.
Let me just reiterate this for a second to make sure it really sinks in. Over the past several months, many people have bought a Galaxy Nexus. It’s a very compelling device, and certainly worthy of the Nexus flagship moniker. It was the first device to ship with Ice Cream Sandwich, a major improvement over Gingerbread, and came packed with functionality.
Then Apple’s lawyers get their hands on the device. They examine every little bit of software on the device. What can we use in our patent trolling campaign against Google? Is there anything in there we can sue over? We have a gazillion patents – sure, all on trivial bullshit, but heck, the judges have to assume they’re valid because the USPTO has granted the patent, so triviality is of no concern. Look at this, this search widget searches multiple sources. Completely obvious and logical, but you know what, we have a patent on that. Bingo!
The judge has to assume Apple’s patent is valid – the USPTO is a respectable, thorough, and careful organisation, right? Right…? – and so, grants a preliminary injunction. The Galaxy Nexus has to be taken off the shelves entirely because this one tiny bit of functionality infringes on some obscure nonsensical software patent. I mean, we also execute thieves for stealing a loaf of bread, right? Eye for an eye is so 6000 BC.
Google and Samsung have to respond to ensure minimal interruption to device sales. So, they do the only thing they can do: they prepare a software patch that removes the ability to search multiple sources from the search widget. In other words, the widget now only searches the web, and not on the devices itself. They then proceed to send this patch out to all Galaxy Nexus devices in the United States, regardless of carrier.
The device you bought will see its functionality reduced, post-sale.
It’s basically Tim Cook shoving his hand through the internet, slapping you on the wrist, taking away functionality from a device you own, and then flipping you off, all because some mindless 9-to-5 office drone at the United States Patent and Trademark Office with 2.3 kids, dog, cat, and a wife who works at WalMart, granted a stupid mindless software patent on an utterly trivial nugget of functionality.
This is the reality we live in today. This once so exciting, mysterious and groundbreaking industry has gone mainstream, and with that, the lawyers and trolls have taken over. It is now entirely impossible for any developer to write any line of code without infringing on someone else’s patents. The incumbents own most of them, so if you dare to compete, you’re boned.
Happy independence day, American Galaxy Nexus “owners”.