Worse Than Failure

I'm sure that by now you've read this story about Maya, a 4-year-old girl whose only way to communicate is through a tablet app, which has been pulled from the only store where it could be sold, because of a patent dispute.

I'm very upset at that situation.

I think that letting something like that happen is a deep failure of the technology industry.

We've let one company patent a $15,000 product that doesn't work, and use that as a legal argument to stop a competitor from making a product that costs less than $1,000 and does work. You're not supposed to be able to patent inventions that don't work, and yet their product doesn't work and is protected by patents. That's nonsense.

We've let another company decide that it can cut access to applications that users desperately need, because they don't want to risk getting involved in some lawsuit.

We've let lawyers take over the technology industry. Lawyers now decide everything. How a product can look. How it can be called. Where it can be sold. How long people can keep it. How it can be used.

I'm upset that there could be even better solutions for Maya, but that instead of innovating the people who are in the best position to help Maya will be fighting court battles. I'm upset that what I work on could be helping Maya, but that lawyers keep getting in the way and holding me back by years.
Carlos Amézaga's profile photoJed Shuster's profile photoNizamuddin Sulieman's profile photoSigi Jurschitz's profile photo
I didn't read about Maya but I really hate this patent insanity. It goes too far for too long and all customers must pay the bill, especially people like Maya.

I hope that the system will crash soon and that they realize that lawers do not invent but pretending innovations.
The patent system has been severely broken for years. This case is quite insignificant, but gets a lot of attention because it involves a disabled child. Instead of ranting about how wrong that is, I just hope it will raise awareness about the absurdity of patents. This is even a perfectly valid patent using the system in the intended manner.

I doubt it will change anything though...
I understand the purpose of patents, but if they are used in this sense, it's completely wrong. Quite similar to the Honeywell/Nest thermostat situation. These companies hold such broad patent claims over things and don't innovate from it. The smaller companies do and they get sued into the ground.

The bigger company should have made an offer to just out-right purchase the smaller one, if it was a possibility. If not, work with them in some way as to not inhibit those in need.

A suggestion would be for Google step in and chat with the smaller company, offering up an Android device (such as the Galaxy Note) and help the dev port to Android. Nice little PR win. The lovely little Miss Maya and her family win due to her tool being available. AND, if for whatever reason the app gets pull from the Android market, there are options to update the app and allow her tool to continue. #justsayin
Just like everything else it is all about GREEED!!!

Attorneys buy up thousands of CRASH/Collision reports from LE agencies so they can solicit clients to sue the other drivers.  Doesn't matter that the person's insurance is already handling the matter...  If the attorney can convince a person they can get some "free" money (regardless of the need or if it is the right thing to do) the person will say, "yes."  So, the Attorney gets rich and the everyone else gets the shaft.

Lawyers are only part of the problem...  Our society as a whole is the problem.  Most just seem to concerned with what they can get than they are with what is the right thing to do.
+Mark Gjoel "This is even a perfectly valid patent using the system in the intended manner."  Is it?  Patents (on mechanical inventions) are supposed to protect the mechanism, not the result.

(Sorry for the long comment, but I have seen enough #patentabuse  and feel the need to speak out.)

Daimler didn't patent the idea of a horseless carriage, the patented a specific type of internal-combustion engine with specific components. Ford could (and did) make a different engine for his horseless carriage.

Schering-Plough didn't patent the idea of an H1-blocker that doesn't cross the blood-brain barrier, the patented loratadine (Claratin), a specific chemical compound that does this.  Other drug companies could (and did: see terfenadine) invent other chemical compounds that also act as H1-blockers and don't cross the blood-brain barrier (so as not to make you drowsy).  [Loratadine's patent has expired now, so anyone can make it, so the company patented a trivial variation on it: desloratadine, which is the right handed enantiomer of loratadine.  Software is not the only place where "trivial" patents get granted...]

PRC and SCS can't patent the idea of a programmable AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) device that lets the user tap pictures to make sentences.  They can patent the specific way in which they did this.  The very fact that this runs on an iPad and not on their specialized hardware should make it difficult to be working in exactly the same way.

I wish +Google would jump all over this.  +Android tablets could also could run an AAC, and Google has huge databases of natural language as well as experience in language processing and UX that would allow Google to make an intuitive and effective AAC app which works entirely differently from any of the patented devices out there.

Right now, the patent system is broken, totally broken.  Everybody is suing everybody over the most ridiculous overly-broad patents.  The process needs to be changed so that the applicant needs to defend their patent application in an adversarial proceeding in front of a jury of their peers (experts in the relevant field).  This would make sure that truly innovative mechanisms and algorithms receive patent protection, while trivial, overly-broad, or already-existing-in-prior-art claims get denied.

+Jean-Baptiste Queru - Thank you for bringing this up. I will try to get some input on the issue from my wife who is a Speech-Language Pathologist who has experience with various AACs.
The patent system is broken, not just in technology, but also in terms of pharmaceutical drugs. Software patents should be banned, ideas should not be patentable, non-functioning devices shouldn't be patentable. The whole system is completely messed up. The whole point of the patent system was to get the knowledge out into the world so companies/people don't have to reinvent the wheel every damn time. Instead, idiotic companies like these have made it a business model to patent ideas and non-functioning devices and stand squarely in the way of society's progress.
Jailbreak and cydia might be a good solution.
I agree that an idea that one should be able to patent stuff. But the fact that what you patented something that doesn't work/exist yet is beyond me. The patent should've gone to the person/company with a working prototype, not a to someone who had "thought" of something that "will" work.
i want to patent a few ideas i have..
cheaply made comercial is all im sayin
Well Jean,   you are somehow at the source. What about rolling out something that does similar task and is not affected by the patents ( or is under GPL and patent is not enforceable) ?
I agree patenting is necessary and fair in some cases. But i fear rather then being used to protect organisations so they have a reason to spend and develop. It has become a tool to simply destroy their competition in court rather then in the market, as it should be.

Apple patenting designs seems ridiculous to me. It is not like they had to spend millions developing a new tech, and their patent on the new laptop wedge shape seems to me a patent on the new logical shape for that device, which is unfair in my opinion to other companies.
if u took away patenting then noone could invent.
The problem is that the idea is patented. That's the whole problem with the system. Ideas shouldn't be patented, just final, working inventions.
Bob H
Inventions are just ideas come to reality.
That is unbelievable. If their are more people with ideas. They try to market their products in the shadow of patent rights. Something must be done. Ofcourse is to keep it at a high price .anyway it's man who made law and its men who break law.
It's kinda scary that RMS was so right about a lot of this stuff.  We're not at the point where coders need a lawyer sat at the side of them checking their code to see if someone already owns the patents on it, but we're not as far from that as we used to be.
I'm very upset that particular outlier cases are used as an emotional buff in arguing.
(Even though I do agree that the patent system is broken, along with many other legislations relevant to information)
(And aside from the point about freedom of software and how it is in the context of tablets and smartphones)
we really need to honor the patent sytem here
This is so upsetting to hear. I don't understand what this world is coming to...smh...
Capitalism a. Were not interested in helping deaf kids, were just interested in making money off helping deaf kids..
That maybe true but I think they need to help her instead of disregarding what she needs.
Thank you for bringing this to wider attention.
I'm not familiar with iPads. Can't the parents switch off Internet access (to prevent updates) or block any system auto-updates?
kids abandoned ought to be accepted for who they are they have rare gifts
As a father Maya's story hits home. The thing is I'm sure thousands of kids are in the same boat and could use this app. It's sad it always comes down to the almighty buck! Somethings are more important then money.
Apple strikes again! This time it's ruthless.

I hope this will raise second thoughts for people that use or want to use Apple products.

By choosing Apple, you're agreeing with the above mentioned actions.
Nobody is judging here..everyone speak up the truth and its bitter to see the reality..Apple have no inovation idea left after steve died, so the only way they able to stay in business is sueing Samsung! Who apparently have almost similar but better apps/concept at a cheaper price! In that case IBM Simon can sue Apple for stealing the touch screen concept back in 1992..what a jerk!
Jean - any chance we could get some developers together to make something open source? I'm willing to commit some time to this project...

Great things happened here: http://hackingautism.org/
Some companies make a living purely by sueing others. They hire devs to create software, they patent the software, and hope someone else makes it so they can sue them
Open source needs support and will avoid all the mess
Instead of cyring about it write an app that will work for her. Its easy to complain, harder to do.
+Keith Dowling - Open source is not immune from being targeted for #patentabuse : most of the lawsuits against Android OEMs are actually targeting core Open Source parts of the OS, not the OEM skins.

+leonard mckee - If the patent-holder has its way, nobody will be permitted to write an app that works for her, free or paid, on any platform.  A dev might do it anyways, but there's a risk involved.
I think it's starting to be well understood that the current Patent and Copyright laws to do fulfil their original intent anymore: to stimulate innovation. We need a complete re-write.
+Ben Leighton - Copyright is actually doing better at being adapted to the "information age" (for example Open Source licenses) than patent law has.
Surely if the companies wanted money for damages there could be a fundraiser. Hell, anything just to stop them from removing such an essential tool from someone's life :S
Man gives with the right hand and takes away with the left hand. The Lord God Almighty will make Maya communicate again.
According to their website, the makers of Speak for Yourself are still fighting.

Can we persuade them (info@speakforyourself.org) to port their app to Android?  I'm sure it would run great on the Nexus tablets rumored to come out soon.
Before we get too intellectually lazy and blame the lawyers (in the manner of Dick the Butcher), let us remember that lawyers only act upon the instructions of their clients. That's true in house and in independent practice.
The CEOs of Apple, Samsung, Google and everyone else make these decisions, not the lawyers. The lawyers tell them if what they want is possible.
Apply a little scrutiny to the tech industry and you'll find lawyers are not to blame. It's good, old-fashioned, capitalist board members.
Sounds like an alternative but similar method but on Android might be the way forward. That and a PR war on Twitter..
+Benjamin Knight in essence, it's money. This is what's wrong with the world. I'm all for companies making money, but everybody needs to adopt and actually adhere to Google's motto: "don't be evil."
Ownership is a Lord God given right, and lawyers are as old the Biblical times. They earn a living by interpreting the law. When its all said and done, it remains only with the Lord God  Almighty to touch the heats of the litigants and well-wishers for mercy!
The bad guys here are not apple, but the scumbag company claiming patent.  And the Us Congress for making patents last far too long and too far reaching.  My other question is why cant the parents simply reinstall an older version of the app,  it's still on the itunes of the Pc they sync with.   I still have VLC for the iphone and I even installed it on my 4S when I upgraded.
Patents and copyrights are not particularly liked these days by young people who see them as used only for anticompetitive schemes by lawyers who need the dough and companies who dont have vision or direction. They dont see how a patent helps them as individuals. They see copyright as just another get rich quick scheme by the record labels since they are still a little behind the eight ball in terms of music sales.
Again with the "schemes by lawyers who need the dough".   Lawyers act on instructions!  It is those instructing lawyers who are obsessed with patents.  
Who instructs them to move to enforce the patent or copyright?
I wish my second son to have the same first name as you.
Im suprised though that the app that Maya was going to get wasn't GPL, Apache, or FRAND licensed especially where the possibility of public good is concerned. This could hurt the image of the company who sued because of the patent.
world govt must equally think for maya like person alongwith Patents and copyrights. Afterall, all issues are on democracy.
+Nicholas Werner The lawyers either work for the company or are independent and then receive instructions to act for the company.  The decision to take action on a patent is entirely that of the CEO and board of the enforcing company.  
In England and Wales, if the lawyer is competent to do the work, has been offered a proper fee and has capacity to undertake the work, he must not normally refuse.
Can i port this to android and not be sued?
thats why "apps" are stupid stand alone. 
duplicate the code on your website  
+Nicholas Werner I like the points you make a great deal. That said, attorneys in the US frequently serve as general counsel to a company, and offer advice on a wide range of subjects. As someone who's been involved in some cases, I can tell you that the companies and their lawyers look upon patent rights frequently as a move to control competition. Also, note that Geotag Inc, a company that sues almost anyone with a website over its patents, is owned by lawyers. Not everyone is upstanding and the lawyers who foster the downside to this system are as much to blame. (Those who foster change and improvement I support.)
Wow, lots of comments, some better than others ;-)

I find it interesting that some comments here suggest that writing Open Source code shields people from patent issues. It does not.
+Jean-Baptiste Queru - Haven't seen this much of an heated debate on one of your posts since the time that one of your AOSP announcements got hijacked into a flamefest on the carriers. :-)
Just took the time to read this, and i have to say, this is VERY SAD. I really hope this little girl gets to keep the app. Someone should make an Android app for this little girl, and donate an Android tablet. I'd actually donate my Android tablet that i don't use.
Silence of the Maya... Film coming soon
Is there really good or evil? It all depends on what your interests are. I think Maya is a casualty in this situation and it's very sad. But on the same note there are reasons why there is legal bullshit. It's to protect interests. Whos interests? That's another story...
I'd be recording .wav files of words and giving them appropriate looking icons and just put them in a folder. Might not be an app, but, I'm sure she'd get the hang of picking the right .wav files. You don't need to rely on these people's program.
The real issue is ownership.  It's apparent that with the new tablet/app store/etc. model that we no longer own the copy of the programs/movies/books/music that we buy.  If someone can reach into my device, and without due process of law remove something without my consent, I don't really own it.  This wasn't true with PCs.
Collaboration is the way to go in this new world.
Your fault for supporting apples fascist app store.

You want freedom, you want to control your hardware that you own?
Move to Android- The rest of us did..

No one is going to care, you have a choice- you SELECTED to exist inside the crystal prison that is iOS.
This is pretty easy to recreate in +Android. The app does appear to be a complete copy of the Pathfinder/Liberator that a friend of mine has.  

Anyone know of an open-source project for Android to fill this void?
+Jean-Baptiste Queru - I spoke to my wife this morning, who is an SLP who has worked with AACs for 16 years. She had a quick read of the blog you linked to: in her experience, the "inventions" that are being fought over are not innovative at all, but have been common practice in using AACs for quite some time.

This seems like another case of patents being granted for something "obvious to those skilled in the art", just like has been going on in the software world.
+James Mason - Thanks very much for looking into that.

So, Company A is given a patent on something obvious, creates expensive products that don't work.

Company B creates cheaper products that do something similar but actually work.

Company A sues Company B for patent infringement.

Company C, which has a monopoly on the distribution of Company B's product, decides to pull it off the shelves.

So, Company B is the one that actually innovates, and they find themselves at the same time sued over a patent that hasn't been granted and cut off from their customers.

In conditions like that, who'd want to be an innovator?
Don't be upset, instead wish positive thoughts on all involved that a peaceful resolution is close at hand :)
+Jean-Baptiste Queru "In conditions like that, who'd want to be an innovator?"  That's a very good question.  However we do innovate in the face of #patentabuse  all the time.  In the current round of so-called  "smartphone wars":
Company A = Apple (though their products do work)
Company B = Samsung
Company C = US Customs

One big difference: with this AAC app, the players are unevenly matched: it's two SLPs against a big company.  Whereas when Apple. Samsung, Motorola, Google, Samsung, etc get into patent disputes, it's a fair fight to the extent that all the companies are large enough that they have the resources to defend themselves in court.
There's a drum machine app like +Chris Lichowicz has explained for the HP Touchpad (Android dualboot optional) except it's text on drum pads rather than using icons. Plus it's free!

"Custom sounds are assigned to the touch pads left-to-right & then top-to-bottom in alphabetical order by the .wav file name. You can create multiple folders under "audioscape", one for each custom sound bank you want to create."

Full description here..


Anyone know where to find some good vocal .wav libraries?
The sad thing is the "guilty until proven innocent" mindset Apple takes.  Unfortunately +Jean-Baptiste Queru , your employer does the same thing... they did it with Tetris a while back removing all clones.  Actually, I don't even think it was a patent issue but a copyright one and the copyright was either expired or invalid.  Still it was removed from +Google Play favoring a paid app that was far worse than the free ones that were removed.
Apple have lots of patents for ridiculous things like "using your fingers" or "looking at something with your eyes". They will be busy trying to patent breathing and walking next. The system has gone crazy.
+Jean-Baptiste Queru , then apparently they both need reform.  With its most recent lawsuit Google, more than any company, should know the difference between re-implementation and copying.  They removed games that didn't even use the trademarked name or copyrighted music.  I just think they should have put up a little fight instead of caving so quickly.... maybe they did, I don't know.
+Eric Frederich - I'm not a lawyer, so even if I knew exactly what DMCA claim and counterclaim had been filed I wouldn't be able to understand them.

What I know, though, is that we designed Android to allow installing apps from other sources, or directly over USB. On top of that, we ship our flagship devices with unlockable bootloaders, so it's even possible to create new ways to install applications.
I hate patents. I know, they were created for very good reasons, and those reasons still exist today, but I never see patents being used for the good reasons they were created for; I only ever see them abused to kill competition and innovation, and make the few companies lucky enough to own them boatloads of money they didn't earn for work they didn't do.

Maybe I don't see the good in patents because I'm not looking hard enough, I don't know. What I do know is that the abuse is epidemic and needs to be stopped.
+Jean-Baptiste Queru fair enough.  I am grateful for all of that.  The following may sound like I'm being sarcastic but I am not.

Whenever my fiancé complains about her Android phone running slow I praise Google.  I praise them for allowing us to install viruses, apps that drain the battery, and run multiple applications at the same time.
empezamos con este nuevo medio, tiene buena pinta,........un saludo a todos
The sick thing about the patent framework is that it cripples innovation. And deprives people of things like life-saving medicines because they grant a monopoly over manufacture. If these kinds of laws existed 50 years ago, none of us would have been able to buy a TV or a computer except from a single company that patented the idea. Which is where we're headed today. These are new laws, affecting old freedoms. I am a child of the 21st century. I wasn't around when these devices were patented. How does that strip me of my right to build something or buy a competing product? Politicians, judges and the police are bleeding us dry. It's what Jesus and Krishna fought against. And no doubt what they were killed for.
All software patents need to be abolished. 
A very heartbreaking and frustrating one!! Poor baby she has a right to be heard and to have a voice. 
Progressive claptrap. Need never provides the right to take someone's intellectual property.
Get rid of the DMCA (in the USA) and work to modify IP laws (everywhere). Yet, IP rights are necessary too...
Pretty sad it is only available in one store.
You guys do realize that she still has the app, can still use it, and that the entire story is an emotional exploit of people right?

This family now requests that people sign a petition that asks apple to leave the product up for sale REGARDLESS of the outcome of any court cases ... they are openly calling for Apple to ignore the law.

Open you're eyes, you're being manipulated emotionally.  Nothing at all has changed for this little girl, and won't change unless there is a legitimate copyright infringement issue.  That DOES NOT mean however that she will lose access to the app.

In short, you and a bunch of other people are getting all worked up about something that MIGHT happen, but hasn't actually happened yet, based on a story thats worded as if it has already happened.
If Apple would allow apps to be installed outside of its store, then the creator of the software could have continue offering it, one way or another. The big problem here is a device that's allowed to acces only and only one walled garden.
Yep, if you don't like being restricted, don't buy products from the "1 good choice" company. Side loading FTW!
One more reason to jailbreak your Apple product!
Add a comment...