Brad Feld

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One Stomp Forward, One Stomp Back

Aug 06, 2007
Category Technology

I predict that 2008 will be the year that the software patent situation finally goes critical and the nuclear meltdown in the reactor begins.  Two things happened today that are notable: the gigantically stupid $1.52 billion judgment for Alcatel-Lucent against Microsoft was overturned and a hard to find company named Aloft Media sued Microsoft and Adobe for “user interfaces in a network browsing window that display the content at a specific URL as well as the URL itself somewhere on or around the window.”

The backstory behind the original Alcatel-Lucent judgment boarders on the insane.  It’s extremely complicated and kafkaesque – the only conclusion a rational person can draw is that it’s further evidence of a completely broken software patent system.  Just mention the name Fraunhofer and watch people’s heads start spinning around (with the audio track presumably encoded in some non-MP3 format.)

Today’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Rudi Brewster of San Diego that the damage award was not valid because it appears Microsoft never infringed one of the two patents is another brave and thoughtful move by a federal judge following Judge William Schwarzer’s (San Francisco – Federal) dismissal of a lawsuit from Friskit Inc. against RealNetworks citing the Supreme Court’s April ruling in KSR v. Teleflex.

Of course, a good deed never goes unpunished.  Aloft Media’s lawyers apparently found their way to the Texas East District Court and managed to file a lawsuit against Microsoft and Adobe for – well – it looks like “URLs near a browser window.”  Maybe someone should suggest that browsers exist because of URLs in the first place and it would be perfectly natural to assume that someone would put URLs near the browser window.  Or – more specifically – that it would an obvious thing to do to put URL’s near a browser window. 

Are there windmills in East Texas?