07.16.11

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USPTO Drives American Software Developers Away to Other Countries

Posted in Patents at 3:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Heart-shaped birds

Summary: Programmers fly away to other continents, far away from patent trolls and a system which harbours them

IT SHOULD be in the interests of US citizens to topple the USPTO, which serves nothing but monopolists, trolls, and patents lawyers these days. It is doing unbelievable harm to an already-suffering economy and according to this new report from The Guardian, it is true that software developers are moving to countries in Europe or distant places like New Zealand. They do not wish to be sued. Quoting the article:

App developers are withdrawing their products for sale from the US versions of Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market for fear of being sued by companies which own software patents – just as a Mumbai-based company has made a wide-ranging claim against Microsoft, Apple, Google, Yahoo and a number of other companies over Twitter-style feeds, for which it claims it has applied for a patent.

Software patent owners in the US have latched onto potential revenue streams to be earned from independent developers by suing over perceived infringements of their intellectual property – which can be expensive for developers to defend even if they are successful.

Now developers in Europe are retreating from the US to avoid the expense and concern such “patent trolls” are causing.

Well, here in the UK software patents and patent trolls are almost unheard of and those who are seeking software patents in the UK often just file for a patent overseas, in the USPTO that corresponds to one of the largest target markets.

The article above makes reference to this lawsuit on which CNET makes the following claims:

More than 30 companies, including the likes of Microsoft, Apple, and IBM have been targeted by India-based Kootol Software for allegedly violating technology covered in a patent application.

So far the list of targeted companies includes Amazon, AOL, Apple, Bebo, Bharti Airtel, ExactTarget, Facebook, Ford Motor, Foursquare, Google, IBM, The Iconfactory, LinkedIn, Microsoft, MySpace, Ning, Nokia, Peek, PopBox, Quora, Research In Motion, Salesforce, Seesmic, Siemens, Sina.com, StatusNet, TwitPic, Twitter, Ubermedia, Webaroo Technology, Yahoo, and Yammer.

Brad Feld, the US-based VC and co-founder of the Foundry Group, has been saying or at least implying that software patents may reduce incentive to invest in companies. In his new column he states that:

More specifically, I think that if the government completely left the software / Internet industry alone and software patents were abolished, the software / Internet industry would have even more vibrant competition.

Just watch what software patents are doing to Android these days. Google hires lawyers rather than developers and according to this update from Groklaw, software patents are also reducing productivity of managers, not just programmers:

So Oracle has asked the court’s permission [PDF] to depose Larry Page of Google along with three other Google employees. Exciting news?! Not really. In fact, if anything this strikes me as a bit of tit-for-tat. Google requested Larry Ellison’s deposition so Oracle is going to do the same with Page.

This is because of software patents. What is the US system doing to itself with this ludicrous patent office? Things are bad enough as they are. Software patents are a total distraction.

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