10th feb, 2012

False alarm in Patent case

The fable about the boy who cried wolf is not entirely true anymore. In the fable the more the boy cries wolf the less the people believes in him, resulting in the sheep getting eaten.
At present there are hundreds of articles about potential or envisioned problems with IP (the boy crying wolf) but instead of getting tired of hearing the warnings people start believing more firmly that the wolf IS coming. There are literally hundreds of newspaper stories about some of the high profile IP cases, fx Eolas vs Microsoft or Apple vs Samsung to name a few. Most of these articles describe the perceived or potential danger which seldom shows up in the end (contrary to the wolf in the fable). But still the people believe – not pausing to consider the past cries of the coming wolf. Furthermore the hundreds of articles leading up to the decision of a case – containing criticism of the IP regime – will not be matched with the same number of stories about the threat turning out to be false. The result is a massive overweight in negative articles about IP. How do you think that will influence the general attitude towards IP?
The last example that made me think of this was an article on Wired the other day. Under the headline: Patent Troll Claims Ownership of Interactive Web – And Might Win. My thoughts were: this is going to be one of those days!
But Today it turns out that the sky wasn’t falling. Under the headline: Texas Jury Strikes Down Patent Troll’s Claim to Own the Interactive Web. The case closes nicely with the patents concerned deemed invalid. A very un-scientific statistic show that the first story was tweeted 1040 times and quoted on Facebook 946 times where the follow up story was tweeted 818 times and on Facebook 343 times. A nice illustration of how danger is more appealing than safety.


It’s patent enforcement actions like this one that bring software patents into disrepute. While I’m not against the idea of patenting software, this particular patent litigation makes me think that maybe the ability to do so should be limited.

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