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Software Patents Not So Abstract When the Lawsuits Hit Home 180

Posted by timothy
from the complaints-department dept.
no_such_user writes "It's easy to ignore the controversy surrounding software patents, especially if you don't have the passion for technology which Slashdot readers do. But as Dana Nieder discovered, it's not all about major corporations and obscure patent trolls. Her daughter uses a comparatively inexpensive assistive communication app on their iPad, which is being threatened by the makers of a multi-thousand-dollar hardware device."
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Software Patents Not So Abstract When the Lawsuits Hit Home

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  • Seriously? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ledow (319597) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @02:56PM (#39468341) Homepage

    Hunt down an online programmer in another country.

    Pay them a few hundred.

    They will knock up an app that's better, works on everything, and can be extended and customised later and you'll have the source too.

    The problem here is not the app or some "big bad company", but that the legalities mean that your app will always be at risk and specialist support apps are INCREDIBLY expensive and crap (ask Stephen Hawking).

    Whether the patent is valid or not, you'll never know. They could really have a legitimate legal claim and the app-maker could have deliberately infringed their patents in order to make a quick buck. You don't know and can't guarantee anything.

    I've worked in schools that have paid thousands for a simple flashcard app for hearing-impaired children. It was literally a VB4 app that I could replicate in an afternoon if I sat down with a licensed clipart library. But if I made one, I wouldn't be able to sell it because schools would only ever buy from established, recognised institutions, etc.

    Get yourself a programmer. In fact, turn the blog post into a plea for someone to create the programme for you. If they create it in a country that doesn't recognise software patents, there is NOTHING they can do about it and the author can put it on their website and charge what they like and you can tell all your friends to buy it from him. Plus, you'll get EXACTLY what you want.

    Don't fight the patents - you don't have the money or inclination, just a single sob-story that has zero real weight. Sidestep the patents instead, and also hit that company where it hurts at the same time. And as your child grows, make the app grow with her and fix the problems she experiences.

    If something is crap, expensive, liable to infringement / removal, etc. then you get around this by using SOMETHING ELSE.

  • Re:Common sense? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blippo (158203) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @03:00PM (#39468359)

    I agree, this seems to be an obvious solutions to a simple problem.

    There is something about the mix of legalese and techobabble in the patent applications, that renders the most trivial thing
    an air of importance.

    I once worked for a company, where we discovered that we couldn't let a system redirect an incoming call to another system,
    if the customer wan't in the first systems database, since that violated a patent. The digital equivalence of looking in the next
    drawer when you are looking for a matching sock. Pretty far from http://www.google.com/patents?vid=1781541 [google.com]

    If patent applications were required to include a car-analogy in the summary, the patent system would less annoying.

  • Smith Corona model (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dr. Tom (23206) <tomh@nih.gov> on Sunday March 25, 2012 @03:11PM (#39468417) Homepage

    When the IBM PC killed the typewriter dead, did Smith Corona sue? No, they adapted, and now sell printer supplies and specialty paper. Before they made typewriters, they made guns. That is one adaptable company. All companies could learn a lesson here. Be flexible. Adapt. The market changes, that's just a fact of life. Litigation to save a dead product is ultimately just pissing money away. Make something new, better, different. Especially in this climate where a claim like this will get you fried in the hot, boiling oil of public opinion.

  • Re:Patent links (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RobertLTux (260313) <robert AT laurencemartin DOT org> on Sunday March 25, 2012 @03:25PM (#39468509)

    the trick is to put the evidence out there and then when groklaw/eff get wind of this they can bring their lawyers in to the fight. (this is the whistle hard to attract a WOLF/Tibetan Mastif trick)

  • by Svartalf (2997) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @03:33PM (#39468557) Homepage

    No... That patent's no longer enforceable. This is 2012. 1992 + 17 = 2009. It expired as a concern several years ago. It also makes anything close to this that doesn't come up with a truly new, patentable twist (the subject patents aren't...) unpatentable. :-D

  • by GPierce (123599) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @04:17PM (#39468905)

    This isn't a solution, but it is something to think about. (It's not totally accurate, but it's a reasonably close description - and there were actually several enclosure acts, not just one.) It could be argued that the enclosure acts were the beginning of our modern concept of "property".

    In the 18th century, our then Lords and Masters took over by passing the Enclosure Acts which ran the peasants off of the commons - producing three generations of property-less rabble. They also passed rules regarding privately held land. If you wanted to establish title to the ground that your family had "owned" for several hundred years, you had to enclose your property with a fence or a hedge. The catch was that the cost of the enclosure was ten times the value of the land.

    The smart peasants sold their land for a few bucks, got on a boat and came to the "new world". Their goal was to get a chunk of land, draw a circle around it and not have any one screw with them again. The Native Americans never had a chance.

    Just as the European nobility "invented" property, our current nobility has invented "intellectual property" and is in the process of producing new generations of property-less rabble.

     

  • Re:Patent links (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <.bassbeast1968. .at. .gmail.com.> on Sunday March 25, 2012 @05:57PM (#39469721) Journal

    The problem is our entire system is designed to let the rich "run out the clock" as it were, letting them drag shit out for years and years because they know that while they can afford to have their own legal team on retainer the people they are crushing simply can't. I got to see this first hand when a friend of mine that was running a little ISP got crushed thanks to a big teleco making sure nobody would sell him backbone access and told him "Yeah just try to sue us". His lawyer said "Oh there is zero doubt you'll win, its as open and shut as it can be, but I hope you have about a mil five and a decade to spare as they will bury you in bullshit motions and appeals until they break you".

    That is why I have said for years we need to take the advantage of money OUT of the system, by forcing both sides to pay into a pool from which BOTH sides lawyers are paid. in this way if a rich corp or individual tried to crush the other under "dream team" lawyers they would be forced to put an equal amount at the disposal of the opposing side, thus negating their advantage. I believe this would work for criminal as well, where prosecutors can pile on experts while the defendant runs out of cash.

  • by mykos (1627575) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @09:29PM (#39471045)
    I would love to be able to crowdsource donations for legal defenses. Many times copyright and patent trolls "lose" but still "win" because they've starved out the defendants with injunctions against sales and put them out of business in a mountain of legal fees.

He who steps on others to reach the top has good balance.

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