Describing How To Create A Software Program Now Puts You At Risk Of Contributory Patent Infringement?
from the for-the-purpose-of-teaching... dept
A whole bunch of you have been submitting the following story from a Dutch developer who is being threatened by Landmark Digital, a BMI subsidiary which owns the patents on Shazam’s music recognition technology, for writing a blog post describing how to build similar technology in your spare time. The story is a perfect example of the ridiculous situation with patents today. Basically, the guy noted that what Shazam does in recognizing music is really not that complicated, and explained how to create something similar yourself, which he did himself in a weekend. He had not released the code, but was planning to do so when the legal threats came in. The guy wondered what patents they were talking about specifically, especially considering that in Europe, the standards to patent software are much higher. In response, he was only told about two US patents (6,990,453 and 7,627,477 — oddly, on that last one, Google still shows it as being patent pending, even though the patent was granted last year).
The developer points out how silly this is:
Why does Landmark Digital Services think they hold a patent for the concepts used in my code? Even if my code works pretty different from the Shazam code (from which the patents came).
What they describe in the patent is a system which:
1. Make a series of fingerprints of a media file and/or media sample (such as audio, but could also be text, video, multimedia, etc) 2. Have a database/hashtable of fingerprints as lookup 3. Compare the set of hashtable hits using their moment in time it happened This is very vague, basically the only innovative idea is matching the found fingerprints linearly in time. Because the first two steps describe how a hashtable works and creating a hash works. These concepts are not new nor innovative.
But, with a bit of imagination one could (possibly) argue that my code (again, written completely by myself in a weekend with some spare time) does the same thing as the patent describes.
After talking it over with some attorneys, he realized that it probably wasn’t worth the potential lawsuit to publish the code he wrote over the weekend, as ridiculous as that sounds. But then things got more ridiculous, as the lawyers for Landmark demanded he take down the original blog post as well, saying that it could teach others how to infringe the patent:
As I’m sure you are aware, your blogpost may be viewed internationally. As a result, you may contribute to someone infringing our patents in any part of the world. While we trust your good intentions, yes, we would like you to refrain from releasing the code at all and to remove the blogpost explaining the algorithm.
Great, so now we have to worry about contributory patent infringement as well? Are we really going to keep stretching third party liability to such ridiculous levels? Explaining to people how they might possibly build a simple app is now putting yourself at risk of liability?