Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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8/15/2005
10:19 AM
David  DeJean
David DeJean
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The Microsoft iPod? Give Me a Break

Microsoft's claim that it invented the iPod would be really funny if it weren't so sad. In fact, it is exactly what is wrong with issuing patents for high-tech ideas: Microsoft, a company that did absolutely zero to put an iPod in your pocket, is getting set to try to grab the profits from the company that actually made the effort, Apple.

Microsoft's claim that it invented the iPod would be really funny if it weren't so sad. In fact, it is exactly what is wrong with issuing patents for high-tech ideas: Microsoft, a company that did absolutely zero to put an iPod in your pocket, is getting set to try to grab the profits from the company that actually made the effort, Apple.Doesn't that seem backwards to you? Why should it be more profitable to practice economic blackmail than to actually do creative work that puts products into users' hands?

But it sure seems to be. Amazon.com last week decided to pay $40 million to settle a patent suit brought by Soverain, a Chicago-based company that claims to make applications for optimizing and managing e-commerce transactions. Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, has talked a lot about the need for patent reform, but in this case, at least, he was all talk, no action.

If patent law doesn't favor the company that does the most for the consumers -- Apple, clearly, in the iPod case, and Amazon in the e-commerce case -- then why aren't we consumers, who are also voters, demanding changes in the broken patent system that would protect our interests?

The only thing I can think of is Pretty Boy Floyd. In the words of Woody Guthrie's ballad,

Now as through this life I've rambled I've seen lots of funny men Some will rob you with a six-gun And some with a fountain pen

Words and Music by Woody Guthrie, copyright 1958 (renewed) by Sanga Music, Inc.

Microsoft (the company that stole the Macintosh interface for Windows, lest we forget), has joined the fountain-pen gang, the Soverains and SCO Groups of the high-tech world. They would all probably claim they're only acting in self-defense, but it's becoming increasingly clear that people don't kill innovation. Fountain pens kill innovation. And we have to find a way to stop it.

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