A recent headline read "Apple's 'bogus' patents will 'strangle' Android".
The article itself went on to complain about how Android based tablets might be eliminated from the marketplace because of Apple's patents.
Well, Google: maybe Android should be strangled.
Really - I mean that. I have some deeper thoughts, but they all end up with Google losing out.
I would have liked to see competition
I don't like to see Apple controlling too much. This patent set back isn't just about tablet computers; it touches Android cell phones also. If Apple continues to win court cases on this, Android devices - tablets and phones - will either become much more clumsy (perhaps effectively useless) or will become more expensive because of royalties demanded by Apple. This could put people out of business if Apple gets really greedy.
It seems pretty fair to say that Apple really did invent this market and that Android is just a cheap copycat, so maybe some people deserve to be put out of business.
I'm not a big fan of patents
In a big picture sort of way, I think patents, and especially software patents, often do more harm than good. However, throwing the baby out with the bathwater isn't the answer. Innovators deserve some protection from copiers. I think that they often get too much protection right now: broad and trivial patents stifle innovation. That's not good for consumers or the economy.
Patents last too long
In my ideal world, patents would have different life spans. Big ideas would get the long term protection that all patents enjoy now. Smaller innovations, where the "new idea" is a cloud of compromised gray, would get less time. Trivial stuff would get even less.
As an example of trivial, IBM patented returning the cursor to the start of the next line on a computer screen. I don't know whether that was a design patent (14 years) or a utility patent (17-20 years, depending on when they got it). I hope that it's long expired and I don't know that IBM actually enforced that on anyone, but whatever the details, an idea like that doesn't deserve long protection.
Maybe Apple's Android killer patents are somewhat trivial also. I don't know, and it doesn't really matter what my opinions are - apparently courts are siding with Apple.
The courts might be wrong. Often the people doing the deciding lack the technical background and the knowledge of computing history that they should have when making patent decisions. It's entirely possible that Google and all the folks deploying Android are victims here, but they are not victims of Apple - they are victims of a faulty patent system.
Use the Force, Google
What I'd like to suggest is that Google should take its lumps if thats what it has to do, but should work toward patent reform. Google's motto is "Do no evil" - I'd like to suggest that patent reform is an area where a lot of evil could be eliminated.
How could they do that? Well, lobbying efforts are obvious, but perhaps using the power of Google Patent Search to ferret out trivial and obviously over-lapping patents might also help. I'm sure Google tried to do that in its defense of Android, but exposing the ridiculous nature of patents that they have no stake in might help our Congress critters understand the need for change.
We already have a framework: http://www.peertopatent.org/ is trying to stop silly patents before they are granted. The involvement of Google (and yes, Apple, Microsoft, Intel and all the rest if they are smart enough to see the wisdom) might eventually bring about much needed change.
So, Google, go have a nice cry over the Android patents, and then hitch up your jeans and get busy trying to fix the system.
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