I received two company wide emails at work today notifying us that we’re being sued by different companies for patent infringement. It might sound serious, until you realize the ridiculous state of software patent laws. I don’t want to get into the finer points of the debate, only to say I think software patents are stupid – they don’t encourage innovation, and only force software companies to spend millions of dollars on lawyers (money that could otherwise go to pay developers like me to create cool stuff).
The latest lawsuits are ridiculous. One by a “software” company for infringing on a patent for “System for transforming and exchanging data between distributed heterogeneous computer systems”. Maybe I’m missing something, but this is a fundamental part of any distributed system. This isn’t groundbreaking. Maybe there’s more to their patent, but considering they’re suing Business Objects, IBM, Microsoft, Sybase, and about every other major software company in the world, I doubt it. From Enterprise Backoffice Blogs “JuxtaComm are a subsidiary of Teilhard Technologies, a 10+ year old company that reinvented itself from a software firm to a patent revenue firm.”
The other lawsuit is from a subsidiary of Acacia, another patent trolling company who previously sued us (and the rest of the software world) for using hyperlinks on CDs. This latest lawsuit is for “Apparatus for applying rules to data sets”. Another ridiculously vague patent that probably never should have been awarded.
Even though the software patents are vague and never should have been awarded, that doesn’t stop trolling companies from using them for suing legitimate software companies for millions of dollars. Usually they don’t win the lawsuits, but often enough they’ll get out of court settlements (like Acacia got last time they sued BOBJ) because fighting lawsuits are expensive and can affect sales.
What irks me almost as much as the dumb patent lawsuits, is that software companies don’t band together to demand patent reform. Instead they support it and give big bonuses to employees who file patents. [/rant] I’m going to be in a moral dilemma when I get an opportunity to stick my name on a patent and collect the $1000 reward for my efforts.