Thursday, February 9, 2012

Patent trolls hurt innovation

From Wired:

Patent Troll Claims Ownership of Interactive Web – And Might Win

The city of Tyler, the site of a remarkable battle over the history of the World Wide Web — a trial that could affect the future of e-commerce. The federal courthouse downtown is packed to the brim with dozens of lawyers, representing the world’s biggest internet companies, including Yahoo, Amazon, Google and YouTube. 
Michael Doyle, a low-profile Chicago biologist, claims that it was actually he and two co-inventors who invented — and patented — the “interactive web” before anyone else, back in 1993. Doyle argues that a program he created at the UC’s San Francisco campus, which allowed doctors to view embryos over the nascent World Wide Web, was the first program that allowed users to interact with images inside of a web browser window. Today, Doyle and his lawyers say he’s owed royalty payments for the use of a stunning array of modern web technologies. Watching online video, having a “search suggestion” pop up in a search bar, or even rotating an image of a sweater you might want to buy on an online shopping site — all are said to infringe on the idea-space of Doyle and his company, Eolas Technologies.


Yeah, this should turn out well. Honestly, if you owned this technology since 1993, why wait until NOW to try to do something about it? Does it have anything to do with the parties involved at this point? Or is it more to actually protect what you claim is your intellectual property. I honestly think it could be argued by some Patent Attorney friends of mine that the ability to interact with images in a medical environment and viewing videos of cats playing fruit ninja on an iPad really aren't the same thing, even if they both occur in a browser. Another thing, using a set of rules (claiming to stem from 1993) to apply to 2011/2012 uses of a browser doesn't really make any sense on so many levels. Browsers have become the ubiquitous "portals" from the local user to nearly any other service at any other location. Interactive web-based email (including chat/video/voice/etc embedded), software as a service and even 3D map rendering/street view capabilities are all abilities that have only been enabled in the last few years with a browser's ability to "be" the computer. What about devices like the Chromebook? Where the line between the browser. OS and network are blurred by definition? Does that mean he gets a royalty for that? What about the Apple iCloud and Amazon Cloud where all media exists both locally and on the internet (and can be accessed through a browser)?

By no means am I saying one shouldn't defend a VALID claim to intellectual property.

Please feel free to comment.

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