Thursday 14 July 2011

All your Android are belong to Microsoft

Anyone else think Microsoft are doing the RIGHT thing? Well I think they are, and I don't blame them either.

Why? They're only protecting what is theirs, that the U.S Government have given them. I've not seen a list of patents in dispute yet, but Microsoft must hold 'valid' patents if more and more OEM's are signing patent licensing deals with them and not battling it out in court. It's down to the OEM's if they want to go with Android or not, if they do then signing on the dotted line is something they accept will happen sooner or later - if they want to sell the device(s) in the U.S that is.

If it were any other company that held the patents, I would fully expect them to do exactly what Microsoft are doing, and I suspect other companies may enter the fray soon, too. Part of the problem is BEFORE the patents are event granted and in most cases before they are published by the USPTO, other companies have innovated on their own and already produced products that would 'infringe' on said patent.

I just hope all these law suits do not stop the development of Android, it is a fantastic mobile operating system. It's developed by the big G, who are in my humble opinion the best innovators around at the moment. They love being on the cutting edge of tech, it's a place I love to be but can seldom afford too be there with them.

I fear that one day, not tomorrow, not next month but in 2 or 3 years Android may cease to exist.
Why? All these silly software patents, which are bad for innovation. So bad in fact, the EU parliament blocked them from being brought into the EU (about the only good thing the EU Parliament has done!). Google have between 600 and 700 from what I've read. The other software giants have 15,000+, each. This does not bode well for Android, or any other FOSS.

Why do I care about the U.S patents if I live in the EU? Well the giants have their HQ's over the pond, and thus the U.S patents system effects us, whether we like it or not.

I'm no developer and have no desire to become one, although I used to want to become a programmer, until I got bored with sitting in front of the computer tapping away writing code - that was very boring so I gave up on becoming a programmer, and as the way I saw it most applications I could want were already developed. I'm a pragmatist, so why would I want to reinvent the wheel? That's why I oppose software patents and to some extent other patents that to me seem unpatentable or not worthy of being patented.

Some patents I don't agree with:
A silly patent that would put people off buying their devices, so why bother patenting it? Just to have it so on one else can have it? Pfft. Lame. It's just a virtual land grabbing exercise.
Seriously? Stuff that existed before the iPhone, but wasn't patented because it would have been too lame to have?

Apple are one of the worst offenders for these software patents, just have a look at the rest of that website. It's truly unbelievable. Most of those probably won't go into production, because they are silly patents and people wouldn't want a device that stops them doing what they want.

Software patents are bad, they stifle innovation and have created a niche market for lawyers looking to make an easy dollar. After all, you only have to prove the 'offenders' are 'infringing' on your patent - et voilĂ  case won and gazillions of dollars in the pockets of the lawyers.

As much as I hate the idea of software patents, I still think Microsoft are doing the right thing, and the same thing any other U.S company would do. I feel that others are going to hop on the Android patent infringement train soon. As long as they don't stand in the way of Google's development of Android, I'm happy.

I don't particularly blame Microsoft, Apple, Google, Oracle for the mess that the tech world is in, I blame the U.S Government and the USPTO.

[/rant over, for now]

I thank you for reading, good night. or good morning. or good afternoon. or g'day if your down under. or...


  1. Counterpoint from a developer (both individually and commercially):

    Software patents are good. My employers business survives because of it - but then, we don't release source code to anyone except our own devs. I earn money because of patents I personally own.

    I agree that it's right that companies should defend their own patents, however, and this a is big caveat, they should only defend the patents THEY actually patented. Buying a company because it holds a patent that a competitor might be infringing is just bad juju, even if the "parent" company claims it's merely exercising a right that the patent holder had originally, but didn't have the finances to argue about.

    I'm no expert on US patent law, but in the UK, the date of patent approval and the date of innovation are key to the argument. There's been similar cases of music copyright infringement. Basically, if you invent something & file a patent, I cannot logically be expected to check for your patent applications before I release something that infringes it, because your patent hasn't been granted yet. However, if I distribute something that infringes your patent after it has been fully granted, then I become liable. Patents can actually be nullified because two separate entities had the same idea without one stealing it from the other.

    This is exactly why Apple are patenting "silly" things - things they don't expect to use. Because one day, they'll strike a deal with O2 (or another) whereby their customers will get cheaper gig tickets because Apple can disable the camera within a certain geo-boundary. Naturally all purchases will be handled by Apple, and they'll take a percentage. At that point, for the people who want cheap gig tickets & weren't going to take pictures anyway, it's an attractive deal. They can even buy the tickets right on their iDevice, as soon as they're available. When HTC decide they want to offer the same deal, they'll need to pay Apple for the licence. That's business sense on the part of Apple.

    The bickering over infringement at the moment is stupid, and I'm hoping US law works the same as UK, so judge can legally kick them in the nuts just for being childish & anti-competitive.

  2. From what I've read on the tit for tat patent law suits, it appears as though in the U.S as long as Company X holds the patent you can sue Company Z for infringing that patent - whether or not they 'infringed' on the patent before or after Company Y was bought out by Company X.

    HTC are a prime example of this having bought S3, to acquire their patents for defensive and offensive purposes. I was hoping it was for the chips :(

    The UK law on patents makes sense and how it should be done.

    I still think software patents are bad for everyone, especially if it is put on the shelf and never used and no licensing deals are struck.

    I see why they can be good, but at the same time they are mostly used to stifle innovation and to be anti-competitive :)