The Macalope Daily: A cup of sorrows

Hey, turns out there is something we can agree on with Lodsys.

For many people, it is easier to call Lodsys and other rights holders names for trying to be compensated for their rights, within a system that is established and known, than it is to consider one’s own responsibility, or the promises and motivations of the platform provider.

It sure is easier! Particularly seeing as how you’re being such jerks! And, if the Macalope may say so, a bunch of gigantic babies.

See? That just rolled right off the Macalope’s tongue. Turns out it’s not only easy, but also very cathartic, too.

To be clear, while the Macalope is fine with name-calling in this situation, he is categorically not recommending any kind of name-calling campaign against Lodsys. He completely agrees with Florian Mueller that that would be counterproductive. But if individuals want to name call? More power to you. The horny ones doesn’t get why Lodsys is even bothering to pretend it has the moral high ground. No one but a lawyer is going to applaud for the company.

Well, maybe a mime. They’re the only other creature on Earth that’s jealous of the accomplishments of real humans. But a mime, of course, would only applaud silently.

Of course, Lodsys is right that most of us are not lawyers, so we really don’t have two legal feet to stand on when talking about this case. But while we may not know the law, we know what we like—and it sure as heck isn’t Lodsys’s “business model,” which seems indistinguishable from the feeding habits of a lamprey. And to be fair to the lamprey, it’s just doing what nature built it to do.

The Macalope is going to take small exception to his editor (and kindly point him to the “even ours” part of the disclaimer at the bottom) who says:

Lodsys seems pretty sure of its position however. The company has promised that it will pay $1000 to any developer that it has accused of infringement if it is determined that Apple’s license covers third-party developers.

If the company were really sure of its position, it would have sued big time developers, not the seven small shops it’s picking on. After all, that’s where the money is, right? Seems more to the Macalope like Lodsys is picking on the little guys in the hopes that Apple will step in and throw it some more cash for sitting on its butt and doing nothing (to be fair, those holier-than-thou blog posts don’t write themselves). A $7000 bet to with a potential upside in the millions? That’s not much of a risk.

While the system may be “established and known,” that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck. It’s not protecting the people it should be protecting: the people who are creating value.

How can the Macalope state that without legal footing? Because, having read Lodsys’s crappy patent, he can tell you categorically that no one at Apple or the Iconfactory or anywhere else got the idea for in-app purchases from reading it. So, once we’ve dispensed with the idea that something has been directly stolen from Lodsys, we’re left with the concept that it should be able to purchase loosely defined ideas and then hold them for ransom, with no intention of ever using them itself. This is not “intellectual property,” it’s intellectual hostage-taking.

Lodsys has even brought Marco Arment and Fred Wilson—who don’t always see eye to eye—to agreeing that software patents should be abolished. Indeed, it’s stuff like this that makes one nostalgic for the Swiss industrialists of 1884 (PDF) who suggested to their government:

“[t]hat in the interest of the general prosperity of industry and trade, patent protection, that cup of sorrows, may pass from [us].”

Well said, dead Swiss guys. At the time, the Swiss system said you could only patent things that could be represented by working mechanical models. Of course, as the linked paper indicates, this didn’t work so well when trying to patent chemicals. Still, the Macalope thinks that some kind of practical implementation should be required, because it’s galling to have companies that do nothing other than litigate sit around and collect money from people who actually produce things.

To paraphrase Steve Jobs: “By the way, what have you done that’s so great? Do you create anything or just sue others who do?”

We already know the answer to that.

So, guess what, Lodsys? Even if what you do is legal, even if you’re eventually proved right within the law, we still don’t have to like you, or your business model of profiting from a flawed system. We don’t even have to be polite to you. Because however this legal battle ends up, the Macalope knows one thing: the right to call you names is constitutionally protected, just as it should be.

If you can’t take the heat, you could always drop the suits.

[Editors’ Note: In addition to being a mythical beast, the Macalope is not an employee of Macworld. As a result, the Macalope is always free to criticize any media organization. Even ours.]

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