Jul 9, 2012
So, across the Internet, but particularly on Google+, there’s a trend brewing: #boycottapple. This started after Apple had a judge put an injunction on Galaxy Nexus sales due to alleged patent violations.
The problem is that boycotting Apple for their patent litigation is not the problem. The problem is the software patent system. Google has been a part of this system too. They have sued to protect their patents. Everyone in the mobile business has, because no one’s going to just sit on their patents. Everyone is essentially compelled to play the game, and the only rational ideology, if we’re boycotting those who play the patent litigation game, is to go off the grid and live in the forest. With a huge beard.
The software patent system is set up for companies to be obfuscating and vague enough to where patent authors can be vague enough to justify covering as many applications as possible, which of course means that when anything remotely infringing comes along, legal paperwork and eventually money changes hands. Of course, there is something almost reassuring in a bizarre way about patent holders actually using their patents in real-world uses, as opposed to patent trolls who sit on their patents, never using them, then suing when they can make the biggest financial gain. At least the giants are all suing each other.
Software innovation should be protected, and while I kind of want to see the patent system done away with entirely just to stop these issues from recurring, it may just be throwing the baby out with the bath water. I like the EFF’s ideas to reform software patents. But the thing is this: software innovation happens at a more rapid pace than what the patent system is set up to protect. In a way, I would almost rather see a world where the goal is to get an idea executed first, because right now it’s not stopping anyone. Android is lifting ideas from iOS, and iOS is lifting features from Android. All the patent system is doing is clogging up courtrooms, and keeping lawyers employed. It is protecting small players in a way, but I do believe that it is still about innovation and execution. Do not forget about the latter part of that.
So, really, tweeting and Facebooking and Google Plussing #BoycottApple is avoiding the heart of the issue. Encourage politicians to work on reforming patents. Or become a lumberjack. No one’s patented the axe. Yet.