Doug Aamoth, blogger for Time Magazine, wrote a story back on September 8 about patent infringement lawsuits filed by several tech giants against other tech giants, and its current impact upon the electronics industry. It’s a problem that has plagued software development teams for ages, affecting Sony’s controllers for the Playstation, Microsoft’s software, among countless others.
In Aamoth’s article, he discusses Google’s $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorolla Mobility on August 15, and the electronic industry’s prolific and strategic use of lawsuits and counter-suits to stonewall companies and their products. The purchase can be one of a sort of pro-active insurance, because Google is already in the midst of numerous lawsuits, some of which stemming from their sale of nine patents to HTC, another software company embroiled in a series of lawsuits and counter-lawsuits with Apple.
One problem that seems to be rife within the patents themselves are the occasionally vague and unspecific nature of the products or features meant to be protected. One example would be SEGA Enterprises Ltd., the company behind several popular game series like “Sonic the Hedgehog,” and “Yakuza,” currently holding U.S. Patent 6,200,138: “Game Display Method, Moving Direction Indicating Method, Game Apparatus and Drive Simulating Apparatus.” So when it any other game developer, be it a huge, multi-national company to the smallest team of indie developers, wishes to have a game where they wish to show which direction you are going in, or where you want to go, they need to pony up to SEGA for the license. For anyone possibly unacquainted with video game mechanics, knowing where you want to go is pretty much right up there with movement in the first place.
So with companies suing and counter-suing each other, it begs the question: What happens to the up-and-coming developers in a market with such open hostility? Can new companies possibly hope to innovate and create new products in a market where you can be sued for selling your products via the internet? One thing is for sure, these large companies aren’t likely to get along soon, and the smaller developers will just have to watch the skies for any stumbling giants.