If you’re the kind of person who reads this blog, then you probably already know from other sources that an organization called Lodsys is suing seven “indie” iOS (and beyond!) developers for patent infringement after it started threatening them (and a few others) to do so about three weeks ago.
Independently of the number of reactions this warrants, I want to show my support, and I want you to show your support, to the developers who have been thus targeted. Apparently, in the USA, even defending yourself to find out whether a claim is valid doesn’t just cost an arm and a leg, but can put such developers completely out of business with the sheer cost of the litigation. So it must be pretty depressing when you work your ass off to ship a product, a real product with everything it entails (engine programming, user interface programming, design, art assets, testing, bug fixing, support, etc.), only to receive demands for part of your revenue just because someone claims to have come up with a secondary part of your app first, this someone being potentially anyone with half of a quarter of a third of a case and richer than you, since you’d be out of business by the time the claim is found to be invalid. It must be doubly depressing when the infringement is from your use of a standard part of the platform, that you should (and in fact, in the case of iOS in-app purchase, have to) use as a good platform citizen.
I have known about iconfactory.com and enjoyed their work for
fifteen1 twelve years now, I use Twitterrific, I have bought Craig Hockenberry’s iPhone dev book, I follow him on Twitter and met him once. I know that the Iconfactory is an upstanding citizen of the Mac and iOS ecosystem and doesn’t deserve this. I am not familiar with the other defendants, but I am sure they do not deserve to be thus targeted, either.
So, to Craig, Gedeon, Talos, Corey, Dave, David, Kate and all the other Iconfactory guys and gals; to the fine folks of Combay, Inc; to the no less fine folks of Illusion Labs AB; to Michael; to Richard; to the guys behind Quickoffice, Inc.; to the people of Wulven Games; I say this: keep faith, guys. Do not let this get you down, keep doing great work, know there are people who appreciate you for it and support you. I’m supporting you whatever you decide to do; if you decide to settle, that’s okay, maybe you don’t have a choice, you have my support; if you decide to fight, you have my support; if you want to set up a legal defense fun to be able to defend yourself, know that there are people who are ready to pitch in, I know I am.
And in the meantime before the patent system in the USA gets the overhaul it so richly deserves (I seriously wonder how any remotely innovative product2 can possibly come out of the little guys in the USA, given such incentives), maybe we can get the major technology companies to withdraw selling their products in that infamous East Texas district (as well as the other overly patent-friendly districts), such that this district becomes a technological blight where nothing more advanced than a corded phone is available. I don’t think it could or would prevent patent lawsuits over tech products from being filed there, but at least it would place the court there in a very uncomfortable position vis-à-vis of the district population.
The initial version of that post just read “innovation” instead of “remotely innovative product”; I felt I needed to clarify my meaning↩