Is Android standing on the shoulders of the Microsoft giant?

Lesson number one in the field of patents and licensing if of course pronunciation. While the correct British articulation of word is “pay-tent”, it is our colonial cousins in the new world territories of North America who have adopted the more casual “pah-tent” instead.

But pay-tent or pah-tent regardless, an understanding and appreciation of the issues surrounding patents and software licensing are a must have for developers today.

But the jury is out on one issue.

While one camp says that patents protect innovation, as they should do; others argue that in some areas they may stifle creativity.

Much of this subject concerns the mobile arena today. A lawyer at Microsoft has even accused Google’s Android software of “standing on our shoulders” i.e. to benefit and profit from previous innovations carried out in Redmond.

Microsoft Intellectual Property group deputy general counsel Horacio Gutiérrez told the San Francisco Chronicle that over the years “a flurry of patent disputes” has followed any new disruptive technology at least as far back as the telegraph.

David Akka, UK MD of Magic Software ponders the effect that all this litigation is having on the market and has asked whether developers are becoming overly wary and concerned when trying to develop new and innovative applications?

Litigation is now dripping down to small development houses, since non practicing entities (NPE) or “patent trolls” specifically buy up patents in order to pursue those who infringe them. Small development houses are therefore faced with hefty legal documents every day.

“The biggest issue around patents is the sheer volume of legal jargon involved and the wide sweeping nature of some of the patents which have been awarded in the past, which in turn lead to confusion in the market and the constant legal battles we have seen,” said Magic’s Akka.

Akka bases the breadth of his comments on Magic Software’s work with its uniPaaS product, an application platform designed to deploy applications in multiple deployment modes including full client, Rich Internet Application (RIA), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and mobile.

“However, we should not forget the original purpose of the patent and the fact that all these law suits simply prove how important and valuable truly innovative design can be. Put simply, if the big boys are willing to fight over every detail of a patent, this simply proves their worth. I would argue that patents are not stifling creativity, that they do indeed protect those who have innovated and that development houses should carry on in their innovation and reap the rewards from that innovation.”