Mobile developers strike back against patent trolls

The mobile revolution is threatened by lawsuits aimed at small developers -- but now they're coming together to take on Lodsys and its ilk

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Developers fight back
Lee and his allies have retained Michael McCoy, a Texas intellectal property lawyer who will help create what the developers have termed the Appsterdam Legal Defense Fund.

Legal action will be the start of our three-pronged attack, Lee says. "Next we'll take the fight to Washington, D.C., raising a wall of legislation against future attacks. Imagine a law that allows small software companies to opt out of the patent system.

"We will also mobilize the many talented designers and evangelists in our community to launch a massive media marketing campaign to let the public know that small businesses, jobs, and the economy are being threatened by parasites," Lee says.

Lee and his allies are right to call for patent reform, of course, and there's a bill nearly through Congress that would mark significant progress on this front. The Patent Reform Act of 2011 would move the United States to a "first to file" patent system similar to most of the rest of the developed world. By contrast, the U.S. system relies on a determination of who invented first, which often leads to litigation.

For a while it looked like the act, which also includes a number of other needed reforms, was headed for President Obama's desk, but a dispute over funding has stalled it. Funding is a huge deal, because the Patent Office is grossly underfinanced, which leads to ridiculously long delays and means that employees don't have the time to research the complex issues raised by patent applications.

There are some people who believe the act is flawed, saying it might impose hurdles that small companies would have difficulty surmounting. I have yet to make up my mind on this one and welcome feedback on it.

Finally, I want to suggest that you listen to an outstanding radio documentary, "When Patents Attack," that aired on National Public Radio earlier this summer. It is excellent, unless your name is Nathan Myhrvold, whose company Intellectual Ventures does not come off so well since it airs allegations that the former Microsoft exec is himself a patent troll. But that's another story.

I welcome your comments, tips, and suggestions. Post them here (Add a comment) so that all our readers can share them, or reach me at Follow me on Twitter at BSnyderSF.

This article, "Mobile developers strike back against patent trolls," was originally published by Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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