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Back in April I wrote a post about What Googorola Needs. At the time, I suggested they needed an Android Accelerator, which a colleague of mine and I designed and photographed. They never took us up on our offer to sell our device, and by June it had become obvious that they needed more. Commentators were observing some of the reasons that development of apps for iOS had continued to outpace that for Android: see this article in IT World Canada, for example. In a fit of premonition between bouts of throwing small objects at one another, my colleague Simon and I repurposed the parts of the Android Accelerator. Since then, the events of the Patent Wars have made it obvious that Googorola’s little man is locked in an Android Prison, pictured here:

Poor little green man!

The Patent Wars. Ah, now that makes me Always Grumpy! Instead of developing new and better devices or, say, improving the quality of devices already out there (see my posts BLWTF and Gimme an L), let’s sic our lawyers on all the other developers of similar devices. Maybe we can extort revenue we don’t deserve! (Microsoft is reputed to make more money on Android than anyone else thanks to their legal chimps.) Maybe we can just chill development out of the marketplace! (Apple is pretending to own patents on all sorts of prior art and obvious craft including anything flat with rounded corners, any icons that are sort of rectangular and who knows what else, even though it dominates the marketplaces for tablets and smart-phones both.) If Ford tried to patent door handles on cars or curved windscreens or flat accelerator pedals, we’d laugh at them. And they’d deserve it. But for some reason, electronics and software manufacturers are getting away with it. Call me Very Surprised.

So where does the fault lie in all of this? The chimps in the legal department are an obvious target, but they’re just doing their jobs (very successfully in the cases I’ve named) and they already fling enough poo at one another in the course of a day. The corporate lords and masters are another easy target, but when it comes down to it they’re doing their jobs too, serving their stock-holders regardless of any collateral damage to, e.g., the economy or the public weal in general. I suspect better targets can be found in the patent-granting authorities and the courts that enforce them. These are people who are charged with the mandate of serving the public, by limiting and restricting the scope of patents granted in the first place and by choosing how to enforce existing patents in the second. If they were doing their jobs, the patents would be fewer and narrower and chilling suits would get thrown out of court. But they’re not and I wish I understood why!

I think our current implementation of the concept of intellectual property may be one of the structural failures of capitalism as it ages. I think Googorola needs more than an Android Accelerator to get out of their Android Prison, but I think that prison is just a symptom of a much larger problem. I think we need a whole new view of intellectual property. What do you think?

Jonathan Gladstone is alwaysgrumpy at jbglad59@sympatico.ca or follow me on Twitter @jbglad59.

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One Comment

    • Frances Weingarten
    • Posted September 8, 2012 at 22:32
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    • Reply

    A new view of ilntellectual property sounds reasonable to me but I must admit that I don’t fully understand what these patent wars are all about. As far as I understand it, Apple wants to ensure that it retains all that it has and prevents Google and its androids to succeed. That’s probably only a small piece of what’s happening though. Maybe the patent authorities should take another look at their grant system and change it!

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