Monday, 25 October 2010

Software giants Sue Device Makers

Oh, to be a patent lawyer in the 'States:
and now
Wow! Let's try to untangle this lot...



Apple and Microsoft suing handset makers using Android. This smacks of tacit collusion. The one platform that could flatten both their mobile platforms is under attack from two fronts, by software giants with arguably the largest and most expensive legal teams in the industry. Meanwhile lounge lizard Larry Ellison is attacking anything Open Source that he doesn't own and can't close down.

Is it ungracious of me to say that the US patent system is patently insane and terminally broken?

The web of lawsuits is now so tangled that any thought of actual technical innovation seems forgotten.

How is this insanity possible? Google develops the Android operating system, but makes it Open Source and gives it away free. It's not driving revenue from Android directly. Microsoft still hates it. So Microsoft goes after the devices manufacturers who are deriving revenue; for patent infringement on the implementation of Android. It's taken so long for M$ to develop Windows-Mobile-7-Series-Phone Mobile-Series-7-Kerplunk-Phone-Thing, it's facing an uphill struggle to break back into the smarthone market. Let's face it Windows Mobile 5 was utterly hideous and only attractive to the corporates wanting MS-Exchange support.

In summary:
"The patents at issue relate to a range of functionality embodied in Motorola's Android smartphone devices that are essential to the smartphone user experience, including synchronizing email, calendars and contacts, scheduling meetings, and notifying applications of changes in signal strength and battery power,"

Apple has stringently avoided suing Microsoft for patent infringement, but is suing handset maker HTC for infringing on iOS. On the surface this is to defend smartphone market share for as long as possible. However, Apple has no intention of being a mass-market leader, everything it sells is positioned as high-end, aspirational and high-margin. They know sales of other smartphones will overtake theirs and soon. The iPhone's early-adopter leading-market share will be reduced as everyone else piles in with comparable but cheaper devices.

The two software giants have been in this game so long you can barely stick a battery onto a piece of plastic without infringing on somebody. Don't get me started on Oracle. Lawsuits are a part of the corporate arsenal against the competition. All we need now is IBM to revert to its' former colours and we can all pretend its the 1990's again.

Individual hardware manufacturers are getting leaned on by heavyweight legal teams, in much the same way the Mafia allegedly leans on individual shop-keepers to extort protection money or shut-down non-compliant rivals. It reminds me of the underhand tactics of the old-fashioned oligarchs like JP Morgan and Andrew Carnegie, or the railroad of the 19th centuries. It's all perfectly legal under the ludicrous mess the US patent office has gotten into.

And completely unacceptable. There. I've said it. Call me a commie-pinko subversive and an enemy of capitalism. I will simply remind everyone of that other set of 19th century laws that were passed to restrain the oligarchs under the heading Anti-Trust. That clearly isn't working either.  RC

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