In the daily IT news we hear about the constant legal back and forth disputes that exist in Silicon Valley, and the IT industry in general. Times must be great for the intellectual property lawyers of Silicon Valley and indeed they are. A simple view of the situation might make us think that a good deal of money is being wasted on litigation between companies, as they squabble over intellectual property rights. The reality is that this is simply how business is done now, it is a cost of business and there is no visible alternative to this status quo.
Why do companies litigate
In the confusing world of high technology, it may often be tempting for one company to take ideas from another company’s projects to use in their code. Sometimes a company will make it easy for another company to find their ideas so that they will take them and have to pay royalties. This relationship can break down though, and this is where the commercial side of what lawyers do stands out. It is often too late for a company to split up the intertwined pieces of technology. As it may be difficult to determine the value of an idea in a larger integrated system, lengthy discussions can turn into litigations that can often take many years to resolve.
Apple’s User Interface Patents and UI trolls
There has been a lot of noise regarding Apple’s claims regarding Samsung’s outright theft of user interface designs. However, it was also shown that Apple had borrow a few ideas from Nokia before that. The patents regarding user interface have been of specific interest for those commenting on the flaws of the current patent system. With Apple’s ‘swipe to unlock’ patent, and perhaps the more questionable ‘upgrade button’ patents being rolled out by a new generation of what are termed as patent trolls, people are right to question what is worthy of patent and what is not.
The fundamental blocks of commerce
At its core, the ability to turn an object into something that can be owned is the fundamental building block of commerce. Once upon a time, it was done for land and goods. Later on, it was applied to artistic works and inventions. Now, it continues to be applied to software systems and more controversially, user interface solutions, which are a blend of invention and artistic work. This is where lawyers will fight for a resolution for the damages that one company has done to another, via unauthorized intellectual property usage – which equates to theft. Simply put, imagine the results of a marketplace, where there was legal recourse against people stealing your products. The marketplace would not exist for very long. The same goes for technology innovators, where ideas are the new commodity, and they are becoming more and more abstract.
More than ever, the world needs talented lawyers and clever judges to map out the legal frontiers that are created on the ever expanding wave of technology. They are the heroes who defend our right to profit from the work we do, and should be rewarded as such.
This article is written by Paul Barrett, a web and systems developer for Living Media, a Perth based business that provides popular portals for bathroom renovations Perth and kitchen renovations Perth.