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by Franki

It’s been said before, and it’ll be said again. The patent system is hopelessly broken and desperately needs fixing.

Apple has just had to pay off a company called E-Date Corp for their iTunes music service because E-Date Corp registered a patent about downloading commercial digital content over wired or wireless networks. How dumb or un-knowledgeable must the patent administrators have been to allow that patent to stand? Did anybody at the patent office that was versed in such things even look at this? Or was it rubber stamped by some computer illiterate lackey who just wanted to go to lunch?

What this patent means is that any mobile phone, PC, PDA, Laptop, MP3 player or other such devices that can be used for downloading of authorised, commercial content, is a potential target of this patent. There is no technology behind this patent that I can see, it seems they simply came up with the idea that people might one day want to download authorised content off the net and decided to patent it. And the authorities just let them.

This is just as bad as the other patent fight I wrote about some time ago going on between Microsoft, Apple and a company called BTG who have patented the ability to download updates off the Internet via a user selectable list of updates.

It is little wonder that every man and his dog is patenting stuff now when you can patent a vague thing like that and make millions. This is one major problem that is stifling innovation, because the little guys that often have the best ideas, don’t have the cash to pay all the potential licenses.

One would think that companies like Microsoft would learn from this, but if recent reports are any indications, they plan to do the same thing themselves. Recent reports have indicated that Microsoft, tired of trying to compete with Linux on price, features, security and stability, may instead be contemplating on using Patent litigation to try and bring down Linux before it takes over the desktop market like it is doing with the server market now.

After all, Microsoft patented the double mouse click, and they have heaps of other similar patents they can pull out and use if they get desperate. Not everyone in the software industry are millionaires, most are just regular guys. Regular guys who can ill afford to pay to defend themselves even if they are in the right.

You can read more about the recent Apple -> E-date case on The Register.



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