If we lived in a more sane world, patent lawsuits would not be a growth industry. But we don’t, and they are. In fact, they’re an extremely high growth industry, as illustrated in a new report (pdf) from PricewaterhouseCooper.

Remember the days when patents were to help spur innovation, new developments, startup businesses? Your Uncle Dave used to be a software engineer once upon a time. I was employee #4 at Intuit in 1984, and started my own little software company and helped start another in the 90’s. But while I’ve toyed with the idea of writing apps for iPhone and Android, the patent BS that exists today means I wouldn’t even try. You’ve either got to be very rich to defend against the patent trolls and ‘legitimate’ patent holders or a fool to even try. Here are just two recent examples:

Minecraft developer Mojang is being sued for alleged patent infringement in the development of the Android version of the popular game, Eurogamer reports. The lawsuit is being filed by Luxembourg-based Uniloc, a group which specializes in copy protection technology and has a history of suing small companies on the basis of patents.

Here is a GENERAL description of the concept of a “Patent Troll.” (I intend this for general information only, and am not trying to accuse any specific party of fitting such a description.)

Here are some specific points with regard to Unilocs’ lawsuit against Laminar Research (my company and sole source of income to me, and my family). Here is what I believe to be the cost of that suit.

Does Uniloc plan to sue anyone ELSE that sells Android or iOS Apps in the future?

Friday, I went to the courthouse for jury duty and was brought in as a potential juror on a civil case (not patent related). One of the reasons I was excused, I believe, was during voir dire when one of the lawyers asked if anyone thinks there are too many lawsuits. I almost laughed out loud while I raised my hand and said yes. Suing has become, too often, simply a way to make money rather that producing anything, and patent lawsuits are the fad of the day.



  1. What? The moth is always drawn to the flame? says:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=E_lb3D7Ay-M

    • ± says:

      People who discover a mathematical technique to accomplish a new and useful level of data compression or encryption/decryption should be allowed to patent the use of that algorithm or specific method and protect all others from using it. The creativeness and difficulty of inventing/discovering new mathematical approaches to solving certain problems is just as difficult and “not obvious” as any mechanical invention is.

      This institutionalized bias against math seems to have started with Alfred Nobel who didn’t see fit to establish math as an award category for his prize.

      • What? The moth is always drawn to the flame? says:

        The crux of your position is that all intellectual property should be owned by people and companies.

        How should the academic world proceed given that position?

        Should all academic developments be sheltered in IP handcuffs?

        What about Government funded research; should there be require licenses for the use of Government IP?

        Do these examples of IP containment advance society, or stifle it?

        • ± says:

          The crux of my position is that a clever new algorithm that makes something practical/possible/useful that wasn’t before, is just as valid as a newly created and patentable mechanical mechanism.

          • What? The moth is always drawn to the flame? says:

            Okay.

          • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

            I agree, but the crux of the issue is whether or not SOCIETY benefits more by having patents on such new techniques, or not.

            The meme today is towards ownership of “everything” under the notion as you hint that it takes a lot of time and effort that won’t get spent without the patent?

            Yet, there are many many examples of great achievements without any thought to monopolizing the results.

            there are pros and cons to any position taken. Perhaps a compromise to start with is allowing patent suits only to the original creator==no patent firms, no buying of patents to go forward and whatnot.

            Yes… that would be a change.

  2. pedro says:

    That and the iDiot generation will be the end of software

  3. ReadyKilowatt says:

    The end of America’s dominance in software perhaps. But other countries are catching up and they don’t follow the same patent laws we do.

    The end of high margin software (the app market) perhaps. But we’re at a crossroads when you can download a complete development suite for no cost, go though online training for no cost and actually get a distribution deal for next to nothing. Oh, and every device running the OS has a prominently placed button pushing customers into the store.

  4. hmeyers says:

    Software patents are largely a bad idea, but really the main problems is mega corps coming up with the patent portfolio concept to make legally endorsed monopolies.

    Remember in the 1990s Microsoft violated copyrights and patents at will.

    Google probably violates copyright constantly (Google books) and Facebook violates privacy constantly but super-scale provides super shielding.

    It is more that mega corps have penetrated the political system to grease the politicians. The Microsoft anti-trust case didn’t “cause this”, but raised awareness that if you are a super-giant you better pay some protection money (i.e. lobbyists) to protect your interests.

    • orchidcup says:

      Microsoft is a person.

      Google is a person.

      Corporate Personhood allows corporations to have legal standing in the courts as if they were a human being type of person.

      Until the people decide to take control of the situation and abolish Corporate Personhood, corporations will persist with owning the legal system and influencing government and politics with lobbyists and campaign contributions.

      The power is in your hands.

      Corporate Personhood

      Restore the Constitution to its proper place in American society.

  5. B. Dog says:

    Software patents should all be declared null and void. A great beauty of software is that it allows a person with some skills to do very cool things. To have to know everything that has been patented in the world of software so as not to infringe on what has been patented is onerous.

  6. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

    “One of the reasons I was excused, I believe, was during voir dire when one of the lawyers asked if anyone thinks there are too many lawsuits. I almost laughed out loud while I raised my hand and said yes.” /// Too many lawsuits in some areas, not enough lawsuits in others. Like most issues, the “system” most likely needs some tweeking rather than wholesale rejection.

    The most correct answer to most questions is “depends.”

  7. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

    Say Michael—why should anyone buy a handbag when you can put all your stuff into old socks and tie them off on your belt?

    Cheap, personalized, and good organization.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Suing has become, too often, simply a way to make money rather that producing anything, and patent lawsuits are the fad of the day.

    You mean to say this isn’t another world-wide-web domain rush where people (lawyers) want to get paid for doing nothing more than register domain names like http://www.ibm.com? I’m shocked! (Not really.)

    So you mean to say that you don’t agree with Apple’s long standing business philosophy of “sue everyone and let the courts sort it out”? It’s not like Apple hasn’t tried suing over total bullshit before. I only mention Apple since this whole idea of “innovation through lawsuit” seems to have first come directly from the mind of Steve Jobs – at least when we’re talking about computers.

    I seem to remember about the time you (Uncle Dave) were at Intuit when Apple actually sued Microsoft and others over the very use of a GUI operating system. Never mind that the “idea” of GUI’s was ripped off from Xerox. Apple nearly went nuclear with law suits after Windows 2/3 was released. Doesn’t anyone remember that?

    And it’s not like Microsoft didn’t get into the act either. But they didn’t start all this legal mumbo jumbo either. Apple did!

    About the worst thing Microsoft ever did was flex their muscle with free web browsers trying to exterminate any competition and attempts to pervert copyright laws. So Microsoft isn’t exactly blameless here either. But copyrights are not patents!

    So if you’re sitting there on a Macintosh or pondering getting an iPhone or something, please try and remember that your consumer dollars started all this legal perversion. Your dollars continue to support it as long as you’re all too wiling to ignore history and ignore who you are paying just so you can have something that “just works”. Shame on you Apple-“tards” for not thinking!

    So welcome to your wonderful world of perverted liberal business. Pay no attention to any actual innovation or true competition. Apple was bound to make this a profitable business model to anyone who can pass a legal bar exam. And if you’re a Steve Jobs brown-noser (a.k.a. an Apple Consumer) then this should be no big surprise to you either.

    THAT’S WHY I SAY APPLE IS UN AMERICAN!

    Lawsuits benefit no one except the lawyers!

    • orchidcup says:

      Lawsuits benefit no one except the lawyers!

      Don’t forget the judges, bailiffs, court reporters, private investigators, legal assistants, expert witnesses, and the courthouse janitor.

      Unfortunately, our legal system is money-driven, the same as your local grocery store.

      When you come up with a better system for resolving legal conflicts, by all means share it with us.

    • orchidcup says:

      THAT’S WHY I SAY APPLE IS UN AMERICAN!

      Apple is a person.

      Microsoft is a person.

      Google is a person.

      Corporate Personhood allows corporations to have legal standing in the courts as if they were a human being type of person.

      Until the people decide to take control of the situation and abolish Corporate Personhood, corporations will persist with owning the legal system and influencing government and politics with lobbyists and campaign contributions.

      The power is in your hands.

      A href=”http://reclaimdemocracy.org/corporate-personhood/”>Corporate Personhood

      Restore the Constitution to its proper place in American society.

    • Glenn E. says:

      “Apple nearly went nuclear with law suits after Windows 2/3 was released. Doesn’t anyone remember that?”

      Actually, what I remember was that Apple only sued Microsoft for stealing the “look and feel” of their Mac’s GUI. But Apple wasn’t the only victim, at the time. Just the only one (or few) to sue.

      What Microsoft did was to offer a Basic Language software product, to computer OEMs. Which was still a popular programming language, back in the 1980s. And Microsoft would port a version of it’s Basic to any platform, if they got a free prototype computer to help them do that. And I believe they pitched this to both Apple and Commodore. Because both ended up with a Microsoft Basic product, for their earliest model’s release.

      I’ve personally used the Commodore Amiga MS Basic. It was pretty good. But it broke some memory allocation rules, and failed in the next OS upgrade. Perhaps, planned obsolescence.

      In the process of porting their Basic, Microsoft got to learn how both platforms’ GUIs worked, before they went to market. And created the Windows GUI based on them, rather than go to Xerox, and start from near scratch.

      That’s why the MS mouse is two buttons, not one like Macs have. Amiga always had a two button mouse. The right button being pulldown “menus”, like Windows. Only anchored to the top border of the screen. Windows has pointer positioned menus, like the Mac. Also, the pane gadgets are in the same place in Windows, as in Amiga. Only they’re minimize, resize, and close. Instead of Amiga’s two pane position gadgets.

      Also, Microsoft didn’t adopt the Amiga’s “Workbench” GUI name. Instead choosing the Mac’s “Desktop” GUI name. But what’s a “desktop” got to do with a “window” pane? Shouldn’t it have been a “Wall” or “Billboard”? Yeah, I can hear Bill Gates fans, snickering over the “Bill’s Board” joke.

  9. Charlie Anderson says:

    A friend of mine has a patent on a 150 digit prime number. Useful in cryptography, allegedly.