May 13

Today the interwebs have been full of reports of small iOS developers receiving legal threats from a patent troll. Here are two good blog posts with analysis that go deeper than the breathless reporting of arriving FedEx packages.

This sucks on so many levels.

Many big corporations have multiple patent related lawsuits ongoing at any given time. See this spider-like diagram of some of the disputes that Apple is currently involved in related to Android (not all of them are software related). To these companies, it’s just a cost of doing business. To us small developers it could mean the end of business.

The patent system was created with the direct intent of providing a common good to society. An inventor enjoys protection for his invention for a limited time in exchange for a public, detailed description of the invention. The idea is that other inventors can build upon this and innovate further, faster. This is good for society.

I feel that software patents are one of the more perverted parts of the patent system. One of the few things that you cannot patent is a mathematical algorithm. In my opinion software is very often quite similar to mathematical algorithms. I would love to have the patent on basic addition. I would graciously charge a very nominal fee each time anyone makes use of addition. I think everyone agrees that this would be absurd (except the owner of the patent of course). But in the world of software patents someone actually succeeded in basically patenting XOR.

Back in the olden days, companies applied for copyright protection for their software. I think this is a perfectly reasonable way to protect software from theft. As long as software has existed there’s been public domain and open source software as an alternative to copyrights and patents. Now there’s a definite common good.

Today I have purchased apps from these independent developers as a small token of support from one developer to fellow developers who were directly affected by this legal travesty.

written by Nick \\ tags:

Leave a Reply