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It Was Only A Matter of Time – Angry Birds Game Hit With Patent Lawsuit

Sadly, another illustration as to all that is wrong with the US Patent system. Today we talk about the story of Patent Trolls.

Once upon a time there was a country who loved to build things. They had manufacturing plants all over the place, with plenty of proud families who for generations worked in the plants. Day after day, these people toiled to produce some of the best products in the land. Sure, they ran into various problems when trying to manufacture new products, but these workers were so skilled and so experienced, nothing could hold them back for long.

Then one day someone in this country got the idea that manufacturing was a job best left for others. It was too hard to try to run manufacturing plants in the United States, and cheap labor could be had abroad. So in a stampede that would have dwarfed any stampede ever seen out west, most manufacturers moved their facilities over seas.

Now, this worked reasonably well for the manufacturers, who no longer had to pay for things such as worker’s benefits, health care, plant safety, livable salaries, etc. If you ignored the fact that they were turning their backs on the workers who had for generations toiled in their plants and made them what they are, and the fact that the owners were  selling their souls to the devil, things would look pretty rosy for the manufacturers.

Once this great country abandoned its ability to make things, a new economics market was necessary. Of course, the old market of:

  • make something
  • sell it to consumers
  • reinvest in your business
  • repeat

had to be replaced, since almost no one had the ability to make things any more.

Well, it took some searching, but then some unnamed group of people decided that since they didn’t want to make money by MAKING stuff, they would look for a way to make money by simply THINKING of stuff. Now the problem became how to get people to pay them for merely THINKING stuff.

Well, an old method that had always worked in the past was to get laws enacted that could FORCE people to pay them for their thoughts. However, after looking around for a while, these “new” entrepreneurs settled on the US Patent system.

You see, the Patent system was originally designed to allow a small-time, simple inventor to take his new inventions to a larger company to partner with in order to bring his ideas to market…without having to worry about that big company simply stealing his idea and doing it themselves.  It was supposed to encourage the independent inventor to go ahead and invent without fear that the big bad corporations would steal all of his hard work. The inventor would obtain a patent, and the US Government would protect that inventor such that no one else could financially benefit from his invention for some amount of time, after which the idea would be released into the public domain.

But this band of lazy men thought that perhaps they could subvert this very patent system to FORCE people to pay them for their ideas. Sadly, they did indeed find a way.

Today we have a totally broken patent system awarding patents on just about any idea…no matter how obvious and no matter how much the idea has been USED in the past.

So now we have patents for things like:

  1. On a computer screen, putting a box around an input field
  2. On a check-out screen for a website, have a single click complete the transaction
  3. Using a computer system for generating messages electronically instead of physically
  4. Using a computer to print out a report
  5. Using a digital method of delivering music (think mp3 downloads)

So now we have all of these patents floating around…and along comes the Patent Troll (sorry it took me so long to finally get to this point)!

The Patent Troll is a new breed of business…though in my opinion it is not a business…it is a blight on business. You see, a Patent Troll produces NOTHING of value to the community. They don’t “make” anything (indeed, “making” something would be a liability for a patent troll…but that is a tale for another time). They simply scour the earth looking for patents that other people have registered and are looking to sell. These could be the most SILLY patents in creation. The only thing the Patent Troll cares about is whether or not they can sue someone with it.

Oh! I forgot! I hadn’t told you the other side to the broken patent system! You see, it can cost between $1 million and $5 million dollars to legally defend yourself against the most stupid/silly/asinine patent. Therefore, a lot of people who get sued over patent issues simply settle out of court because in the end it is a lot cheaper than battling it. In effect, what we now have in the US Patent system is a government sponsored extortion racket.

So why are my hackles up on patents right now? You may not have known it, but those <sarcasm> shifty, greedy folks that made the popular game Angry Birds (which I proudly state I have NEVER played)</sarcasm> have just been sued by a “patent troll.” Yes, you got that right. Apparently the folks that made Angry Birds infringed on someone’s “invention,” and now the Patent Troll is coming to try and get his “cut” (click here to read the original article that inspired this post).

Oh…but the story gets ohhhhhh so much better…

You see, this particular lawsuit opens up a HUGE can of worms because Lodsys, the Patent Troll…errrr…the company filing the suit…is claiming that they hold a patent that was violated in Apple’s Software Development Kit (SDK) that it gives to software developers to use to create programs such as Angry Birds. Now you need to know that Apple “bit the bullet” and signed a licensing agreement with Lodsys over this for the expressed purpose of protecting developers that use Apple’s SDK. Apparently Lodsys was just waiting for a few big-revenue games to be released so that they could assert that Apple’s license agreement DOES NOT protect user’s of the SDK (click here to read the other article that inspired this post).

Anyway, you now get a taste of why it is that I am so against patents in software, and with a lot of other technology fields. I believe that patents have their place, but that the system has been so incredibly perverted, especially in the area of software patents, that it is now used primarily by large corporations to prevent smaller organizations from encroaching on their markets. The solution to this problem certainly IS NOT to ram 1.2 million patent applications through an already broken system, which would only compound the problems.

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