Patent Settlement Ends Fight Over Helpful Speech App -- But Leaves Questions About Patent Bullies

from the glad-it's-over,-but... dept

We've been covering the ridiculous patent case involving an iPhone and Android app called Speak for Yourself, which was a tool used by many people who had various issues with being able to speak. We became aware of it, because of a mother whose young daughter Maya relied on the tool to actually communicate, and who feared that the tool would disappear due to the lawsuit. While the lawsuit was ongoing, despite a lack of an injunction, the patent holder was still able to get the tool removed from both the Apple App Store and Google's app store.

Thankfully, the makers of Speak for Yourself have now announced that the case has been settled and the patent holder and licensee who were suing them, Semantic Compaction Systems and Prentke Romich Company, will drop all claims and takedown notices concerning SFY. Unfortunately, the terms of the agreement are confidential -- which is common in these kinds of things, but far from necessary. It's likely that SFY paid something here, though there have been questions about the validity of the patent in question (5,920,303) for a keyboard with keys that dynamically change. While this news means that the Nieder family no longer needs to worry, it's unfortunate that this whole thing had to happen in the first place. It was a pointless and wasteful distraction from all of these companies focusing on actually innovating and competing in the marketplace, like they should. As for the Nieders, there doesn't appear to be an update on their blog yet, but perhaps it's because little Maya has a brand new baby brother. Hopefully she enjoys speaking to him with the SFY app, and her parents can rest easy knowing they don't have to worry about their daughter's ability to communicate any longer.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2012 @ 5:37am

    "It's likely that SFY paid something here, though there have been questions about the validity of the patent in question"

    It's a software patent, therefore, it is automatically invalid. At least, to someone skilled in the craft it is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2012 @ 6:09am

    As much as I don't like that the patent stands, I am happy that the SFY app can continue on. I read about this families struggles and know how much of a relief this must be for them. It's more important that SFY exists then having to go through a lengthy trial to try and invalidate the patent.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2012 @ 6:36am

    So now software coders have to pay patent fees to use the hardware they are programming for? I don't understand.
    I looked at all the references and they all reference hardware patents.
    I hope I am wrong but it seems that all entrepreneurs are now screwed and can no longer write software without paying the patent fees for the display (owned by Casio, look at the reference) etc.
    If this is so then all computer software will only be produced by the big boys that can afford to pay the fees.
    Also a note to Microsoft that if this is true then why buy your Development Kits.
    Please tell me I'm wrong!

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2012 @ 6:41am

    the companies concerned here and the people in those (or speaking for those companies) should be ashamed of themselves over this issue. i would like to know how they would feel and/or what road they would have gone down had the situations been reversed!

     

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  5.  
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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Oct 12th, 2012 @ 6:49am

    Shame on them!

    Personally I think that Semantic Compaction Systems and Prentke Romich Company should be taken out to the woodshed and heartily spanked! What schmucks! I hope they learn to be ashamed of their egregious actions in this case... Yeah, and pigs will fly!

     

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  6.  
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    The eejit (profile), Oct 12th, 2012 @ 7:12am

    Re: Shame on them!

    nope, I think that all patents they hold are revoked, as it's not in the public interest to have them be permitted.

     

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  7.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Oct 12th, 2012 @ 7:29am

    Re:

    But we won't know what limitations have been placed on them by the patent holder who haven't changed their tech in a very long time.
    They could have adapted and done something newer and better but they were content to sit back and rest on their patent.

    Patents just spur innovation to benefit society... /s

     

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  8.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Oct 12th, 2012 @ 9:20am

    Re:

    You're not wrong, but the situation is worse than you say. It borders on impossible to write a nontrivial application for any platform that does not infringe on at least one software patent. And you'll never know which one it is until you're sued.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2012 @ 9:30am

    Blog comment...

    There is a comment on her blog, Mike. I posted the link this morning when I submitted the story.

    http://niederfamily.blogspot.com/2012/10/and-winner-is.html

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Jack, Oct 12th, 2012 @ 10:05am

    Patent

    In regards to patent regulation, something needs to be done soon about frivolous lawsuits as it does hurt innovation.

     

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  11.  
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    Andrew D. Todd, Oct 12th, 2012 @ 10:12am

    Prentke Romich will be Downsized.

    I saw something like this back in the 1990's. There were these companies which had built "workstations" to do particular specialist tasks, such as CAD/CAM, and when desktop personal computers reached a certain point of development, there was no longer any justification for these specialist companies to build their own computers. The commercial software wound up costing about an order of magnitude less than the dedicated computer had cost. Generally speaking, these companies went bankrupt because they didn't like the idea of being demoted to software developers, and held on too long.

    The same process seems to be operating in hand-held devices. My guess is that Prentke Romich Company will wind up having to fire about ninety percent of its staff, those who were involved in making and selling a seven-thousand-dollar hand-held computer, in order to salvage a small software business selling, what is it, a three hundred dollar program, which is still somewhat overpriced compared to Speak For Yourself's offering.

    From what I hear, Android is developing or acquiring open-source development tools, just like its big brother, Linux. What this means, in practical terms is that little Maya's next speaking system will probably be be both open-source and strictly pro-bono, with no business model. It will be a student's thesis project instead, with none of the complications of money involved. The Dasher program for entering text with a mouse is the closest economic analogy I can think of, and _that_ is developed out of the Physics Department of the University of Cambridge, and bundled with most Linuxes.

    http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/dasher/

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2012 @ 8:22pm

    Re: Patent

    The real potential travesty here was not the harm to innovation but rather the harm that could have come to an innocent little girl with no other voice. It is good to see that she ends up the winner in all of this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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