Software patents are a problem, not a solution; that’s why when the Israeli Patent Registrar wanted to hear what the public thinks of them, we (at Hamakor, Israel’s Free Software and Open Source Association) wrote a detailed paper about it; in the end, the Israeli Patent Registrar gave a final decision stating that software by itself is not patentable in Israel [Hebrew Link]. However, other jurisdictions may not think the same.
That’s why corporations like Microsoft tend to use software patents as a strategic whip; for example, Microsoft approached HTC with a patent settlement offer, that will cause HTC to pay 5 US$ for every Android mobile device it sells. The thing is that Microsoft directly competes with Android with its “Windows Phone” operating system. Therefore, Microsoft makes more money when its competitors sell Android devices than when it sells its Windows Phone. But, of course, that the problem, not the solution.
Yesterday, David Drummond, Google’s chief legal counsel, ranted in the official Google blog about this conduct (covered also by TechCruch). He said that ”
A smartphone might involve as many as 250,000 (largely questionable) patent claims, and our competitors want to impose a “tax” for these dubious patents that makes Android devices more expensive for consumers“. The thing is that Drummond is also relating to the problem, and not the solution.
Recently, Android had became less and less of Open Source and more proprietary, where Google refused to release Android’s source code. Also, the choice of non-GPL license caused it to be less free. Of course, this lead Google further from the Solution.
The solution to Patent Trolling in the Android market segment is inherent with free software: detach the software distribution from hardware distribution. When people can purchase the devices and then install their OS at home, when they download it for free from the Internet, then these Patent Trolls will have to go against the actual distributor: Google.
As you know, Google, unlike other software companies, has the backbone and endurance to go into legal battle and keep the software segment patent-free. They did it during their long dispute with Viacom over YouTube and they’ll do it again and again.
The only way to win is to fight.