Patents Threaten To Silence A Little Girl, Literally

from the profit-motives dept

Slashdot points us to a sad story from blogger Dana Nieder, providing yet more evidence of how patent monopolies can hold back innovation and do very real damage to people’s lives in the process—and how people are interested in progress, not patents. As Dana says in her post, she understandably doesn’t give a damn about legal details when something as important as her daughter’s ability to communicate is at stake:

My daughter, Maya, will turn four in May and she can’t speak. The only word that she can consistently say with 100% clarity is “done”—which, while helpful, isn’t really enough to functionally communicate. When Maya was two and a half we introduced her to the iPad, and we’ve danced with AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) ever since. We experimented with a few communication apps, but nothing was a perfect fit. After an extensive search for the perfect app, we found it: Speak for Yourself. Simple and brilliant, we saw that it had the potential to serve Maya into adulthood, but was also simple enough for her to start using immediately.

And she liked it. And it worked. And I started to have little flashes of the future, in which she could rapidly tap out phrases and ideas and tell me more and more of the secret thoughts that fill her head—the ones that I’m hungry to hear and she’s dying to share but her uncooperative mouth just can’t get out.

My kid is learning how to “talk.” It’s breathtaking.

But now Speak for Yourself in under fire, and from a surprising (to an AAC outsider) or not-so-surprising (to an AAC insider) source. They’re being sued by Semantic Compaction Systems and Prentke Romich Company, big names in the AAC world. SCS and PRC allege that Speak for Yourself is infringing on their patents. I’m going to be honest: I don’t know about patents and infringement, and I’m not going to get into debates about the legal merits of the case, because that’s a conversation in which I would quickly drown.

Dana explains that her defense of the app isn’t arbitrary. Before discovering Speak For Yourself, she explored dedicated speech devices from the big AAC companies, including Prentke Romich. None of their options were suited to her daughter, and they all carried hefty price tags—as in $7,000+ hefty. She began asking around to see if PRC or any of the other big companies were planning on releasing an iPad app, and learned that although many customers were clamoring for one, the companies had no intention of meeting their demands. They didn’t want an affordable option out there reducing sales of their expensive systems.

Whenever the incumbents of any industry are ignoring the demands of their customers, you can bet that someone else is paying attention. In this case, it was speech-language pathologists Heidi LoStracco and Renee Collender, the pair behind Speak For Yourself. The app’s website explains how it came about:

Mrs. LoStracco and Mrs. Collender began to see a shift in the field when the iPad was released. Mrs. Collender says, “Districts and parents were buying an iPad with an ‘AAC’ app on it and saying, ‘Make this work.’ We would try to reprogram the applications with the language that the children needed, but it took forever and it was never really ‘right.'” Heidi and Renee say that it got to the point that someone was asking them about iPad applications for AAC every day, and they decided that they needed a better answer. Heidi says, “We would tell them, there’s not really an effective AAC app out there yet, but when there, is, we’ll be the first to tell you about it.” Then we started thinking that we could create something that followed motor learning principles and gave individuals access to the language they needed to communicate effectively, and that’s when we designed Speak for Yourself.” Renee says, “We’ve always believed that communication is a basic human right, and the only AAC pre-requisite skill that a nonverbal person needs is a pulse.”

Dana points out that PRC’s mission statement begins “We Believe Everyone Deserves A Voice” and that their refusal to create an affordable iPad app, and now their attempts to crush a competitor who did, clearly runs counter to that mission. For her, that’s basically where the discussion ends: a company is trying to take away the only thing that has been able to give her daughter a voice, and she couldn’t care less whether or not they have the legal right to do so.

It’s hard not to sympathize with her position, even though the lawsuit and the patent in question, #5,920,303, both appear to be solid. As Dana’s story gains traction, we can only hope that it will increase social pressure on PRC and possibly shame them into allowing Speak For Yourself to survive by offering them an affordable license, or at least releasing their own iPad app at a similar price point—but as we’ve seen with pharmaceutical companies, the holders of life-saving and life-changing patents often don’t seem too bothered about withholding them no matter what it does to their public image.

Ultimately, this is more evidence that in today’s world of rapid innovation, tech monopolies are increasingly untenable. Big companies that have dominated niche markets for years—and have long since paid off their R&D costs by charging monopoly rates—are being disrupted by nimbler competitors. As we’ve seen with media and software piracy, this happens whether or not the competitors are “legitimate” under intellectual property law. Can there be any doubt that, if Speak For Yourself is shut down and the app eliminated, Dana will seek out a way to keep it running on her daughter’s iPad? Since her story is running on Slashdot, she’s already received comments with advice on how to do so, and suggestions that she contact Speak For Yourself and convince them to release their source code on github. At the moment, it looks like she just plans on turning off all connectivity on the iPad so that it will no longer sync and the app will remain even if it is removed from the iTunes store. Can anyone blame her? The simple fact is that markets always eventually find a way to meet demands—and if companies (especially those in industries that seriously affect people’s lives) use their intellectual property to block powerful market forces, that control will eventually be wrested from them, one way or another.

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Companies: prentke romich company, semantic compaction systems

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Comments on “Patents Threaten To Silence A Little Girl, Literally”

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Skeptical Cynic (profile) says:

Anyone know if there is a petition started on yet?

Look I know this is a single story about one child, but I believe that for everyone that actively speaks out there are hundreds more that don’t. Which means that this is affecting a lot more people than we know. So I think that we could use the power of Slashdot and Techdirt to put some pressure on the company to license the patent.

Shannon Watts says:

Re: Anyone know if there is a petition started on yet?

There are in fact more children that this will affect. My daughter is a couple months older than Maya and very similar in ability and disability. We were days away from purchasing the speak for yourself app for us when the patent issue came to light. So here we sit waiting to see what happens. I know of many nonverbal children for whom the other AAC devices arent optimal either because they are out of their parents price range or they dont work well within the limitations of the child at the time (size, fine motor, etc). It is a niche market in terms of numbers but that doesnt negate the value of the product or its potential.

Anon says:

Turn off all connectivity on the iPad? Why? Simply sync the iPad to your computer and make multiple backup copies of the IPA file. Even if Apple removes the app from the Apple store: as long as you have that IPA file you should be able to install the app. Whether or not a future iOS update will “break the app” remains to be seen, but that’s a bridge you can cross when you get to it. I would recommend jail breaking it simply so you have the option to downgrade iOS if need be in the future.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

This story is interesting for several reasons. One is that it shows yet again that patents do nothing to promote progress. Patents only impede progress.

But another reason it’s interesting is it shows once again that the walled garden approach Apple takes with iOS should also be scorned. If she had an android device this wouldn’t be as much of a problem if a problem at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“This story is interesting for several reasons. One is that it shows yet again that patents do nothing to promote progress. Patents only impede progress.”

See, that just isn’t true. You realize of course that the apps in question are based on the very technology developed in the patents? You realize that without the original patent ideas, the product might not even exist?

We wouldn’t be having the discussion at all without patents, because there quite possibly wouldn’t by anything to talk about without them.

Robert Doyle (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Well, I agree on a basic level – I don’t feel patents are useless. I do feel they are not properly regulated in situations like this.

The company should be forced to license the technology at a reasonable rate as determined by a regulatory body. They should not be able to block it. That is not the point of a patent.

I would love to hear their side of the story so if anyone can find any comments by the patent holders I would be interested in reading them. If it amounts to “It’s my ball and you can’t play” then I say screw’em.

Watchit (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I think what he meant was that the current patent system doesn’t work. I’m all for patents, or maybe some alternative to rewarding invention, but the current patent system is too restrictive. We need to find a new way or at least adjust current patent law so that it is not so restrictive on growth.
Perhaps a shorter monopoly, or more strict guidelines for new patents. Another idea is to have rewards for patents, new original patents which means stricter guidelines.

MrWilson says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You are absolutely right, sir! No one would ever invent anything if it weren’t for patents. In the days before patents, people who would be inventors just sat around saying, “you know what would be a great idea? I could make a machine that makes it easier to do stuff.” And his friends and coworkers would respond and say, “that is a great idea. You should build that!” But the would-be inventor would just shrug and say, “nah, there’s just no incentive to create anything since I won’t know for certain that the corporation I work for would be compensated ad infinitum for my invention. I know! Instead of creating something useful, I’ll invent patent law and make buckets of money impeding other people from inventing things that logically build upon other ideas!”

Arthur (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“You realize of course that the apps in question are based on the very technology developed in the patents? You realize that without the original patent ideas, the product might not even exist?”

You cannot understand that the apps in question were created without any knowledge or use of these patents. The patents in question were of no help in creating the app. Without those holy patents, the app would still have been created but, without those holy patents, the app could be used by those who need it.

We wouldn’t be having this discussion without the patents because the little girl would be able to use the app. The patents are the problem, not the solution.

ChrisB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

> You realize that without the original patent ideas, the
> product might not even exist?

I work at an engineering firm in the oil/gas industry. Here’s how patents work. I come up with an idea. I develop it evenings and weekends because I think it will help my customers. I tell my boss who figures everyone is going to steal it and we have to patent it. I try and explain that when someone buys a product, they are also buying the people behind it and our name, so we should not be concerned. In any case, if our competitors make it, then it actually legitimizes the product, which helps customers spec them. Oil companies are not going to spec your proprietary product if there is a chance that if you run out or jack the price, their project will get delayed. So now I have to spend months working with lawyers to patents something, when I could have been testing it and releasing it to the market.

Patents might good in areas with government intervension, because budgets are never an issue (like military or aerospace). In the “real” world, patents are a huge hinderance to both inventor _and_ customer.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

We wouldn’t be having the discussion at all without patents, because there quite possibly wouldn’t by anything to talk about without them.

That is just one big lie. There is no evidence that patents are ever instrumental in invention.

Things get invented because people want them to exist.

Patents simply allow greedy people to divert the proceeds to themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

If there is a need a product will come along to fill the gap. Just because this group designed something that fills that gap doesn’t mean they should get an exclusive right to keep others from making a similar app so they can sell their program for 7K a pop.

If they hadn’t made these programs someone else would. No inventor was ever so intelligent that they invented something that no one else could have ever invented.

Fill the market need or let someone else.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The other thing I find shocking/appalling (if the concern is based in reality) is that the App Store could possibly remotely remove an app purposely installed by a user on their personal device. Removing it from the app from the Store so that it is no longer available is one thing, remotely removing it without authorization once it’s installed is another matter completely. If they are indeed doing this, the EFF should be all over them like white on rice.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Moving a file? Too hard??

Mobile and wifi connection mean you can use their app store instead of itunes. It is still their closed system but options!

I partially see the benefit of a closed system. My mom has an ipad and as hard as she tries she can not break it. But if I had one it would drive me batty.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Moving a file? Too hard??

I understand THAT. Of course you can access the App Store directly from the device as long as you have an Internet connection of some type. However, getting apps from the store was not the issue. I was referring to transferring data between a local computer and the device. On most devices you have had to use iTunes to do that. It doesn’t just show up as another HD in your system that you can simply drag and drop content to and from like everything else from every other manufacturer does. That has nothing to do with 4G. Which is why I asked the question. And currently the non-Wifi only versions of the latest generation iPad are the only iOS devices with the capability of establishing a 4G (WiMAX or LTE) connection.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Re: Re: Re: Moving a file? Too hard??

Apple?s and Microsoft?s mobile devices do not have anything resembling a file system that is visible to third-party developers or users. That and their lack of proper multitasking is a deliberate design decision, to lock down the capabilities of the devices to only those allowed by the platform owners.

If you want a mobile device running a proper OS that supports all the usual OS features like a filesystem and proper multitasking, use Android.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Moving a file? Too hard??

The file system itself is there. It’s just that they hide access to it. Most Android devices as they come stock that I’ve seen don’t have a file manager for instance and the partition used for the system files isn’t mounted when connected to a computer either. Only the partition used for data storage is mounted.

Chris Burgess (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That may be a practical suggestion for the family mentioned above, but there are many more who will be negatively impacted by not having had the chance to install the app before $PARENTCO gets closed down. There are other ipad app alternatives also (my brother in law uses Proloquo2Go, similarly priced).

Patents should not be used to protect exploitative business models.

Anonymous Coward says:

It would seem that these patents are fairly old and due to expire pretty soon. They were very likely extremely valid and unique 15 or so years ago, when we were all still using what was basically mechanical keyboards and simple decoding methods.

I would also say that the patent cited (for mapping a keyboard) seems a bit specific. Perhaps if they didn’t use a keyboard layout but instead found a new, faster interface, they could be ahead of the game.

Mike, it’s almost always possible to find a sad story in the world of business, a personal angle. But to be fair, the technology is out there, it is for sale, but they are unwilling to pay the price. If one of my children had this issue, $7000 would seem a small price to pay to achieve the end result. I am shocked that there isn’t any support from the state or federal governments towards adaptive equipment for this child. It seems like the parents may have really missed something here.

ricebowl (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If one of my children had this issue, $7000 would seem a small price to pay to achieve the end result.

Well said! After all, in this economic climate, who doesn’t have $7000 dollars lying around and easily accessible? The inconsiderate cheap-skates! Man, I wish they’d just have the decency to think of the kid(s)!

TheOldFart (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yeah, only $7,000 and then the cheap bastards will whine about the $1,500/yr support subscription, the $2,000 for major version upgrades every 18 months and the $49/month access fee to be able to see their own data, the requirement for extra-cost mobile connections if they want to use the device while on vacation, and the $13.98/minute charge if they use the device more than the maximum allowed 26.38 minutes per day, and the excess data charges if they use it to convey more than 63 words per day.

I can’t believe people just don’t appreciate what the litigious amoral corporations do for them. Those people get *everything* that the corporations feel like offering to them at a price that’s only 8 or 10 times what it would be if they didn’t hold a government enforced monopoly *and* the users get to view a really spiffy logo and some heart rending photographs accompanied by paragraphs of sentimental prose on the company website!

BRB. I think I’ve just poked a hole in my cheek, I better go check because if I throw up in my mouth again it might leak…

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

Re: Re:

1. Government grants monopoly to a company.
2. Company jacks up the price.
3. Consumers can’t afford the price.
4. Government uses taxpayer money to pay the exorbitant price that its responsible for in the first place.

Anonymous Shill sees nothing wrong with this.

(And we wonder why we’re ruled by corporations these days.)

bratwurzt says:

Re: Re:

“If one of my children had this issue, $7000 would seem a small price to pay to achieve the end result”

Wow, playing *THAT* card, are we? Have you read the article? Technology for 7000$+ sux. It doesn’t do what this ipad app does.

Listen to this, when you read it: “Dynamic keyboard and method for dynamically redefining keys on a keyboard”

It’s like trying to patent “Dynamic text layout and method for dynamically reshape text data around image instances.”

I’d call this a e-reader.

and check this out:

If you wanted, you can put all those little pictures on these (expensive!!) keyboards. All this “providing access to higher level keyboard”? It’s called a link. And data behind it? A database. And connections between pictures and higher level keyboards? I can do that better with algorithms that expand your most used paths and suggest similar ones.

Stupid software patent system – it never should have existed.

Another AC says:

Re: Re:

You missed the part where they explained that they had tried that $7k software and it is no good.

It is a typical American attitude that only the ones who can afford help should get it. Whether $7k is a large or small price is irrelevant – what matters is whether it’s affordable to those who need it, and it clearly is not.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The problem isn’t the 7 grand. The problem is that for all of that money the apps being sold by the patent holder(s) didn’t work for the parents or Maya — the most important person here. Or, it seems, many others though that’s unclear.

The one that does “Speak for Yourself” is now threatened by a software patent lawsuit which will tie it up for years if contested and children like Maya (and adults) will suffer.

Nothing I can find indicates that the patent holder(s) tried to negotiate with the people who came up with “Speak for Yourself” before dropping the lawsuit so this all seems to be exactly what Mike says it is an attempt to continue to extract monopoly rents while blocking an arguably superior product from being on the market at a considerably lower price.

That and their position that being able to communicate is a basic human right is hard to disagree with. To that I’d add affordable.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It would be!

As far as we can see “Speak For Yourself” could be a clean room implementation which didn’t refer to the patent or the code used in the patent holder’s devices.

What it seems has happened is that the patent holder(s) have dropped the lawsuit to stop competition from a superior, less expensive, more effective product. Just how that encourages invention/innovation baffles me.

It sickens me that in things like this the medical needs of actual human beings take second place to the income needs of private corporations. Take care of the people and the income will come.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

As far as we can see “Speak For Yourself” could be a clean room implementation which didn’t refer to the patent or the code used in the patent holder’s devices.

Not like that makes any difference. I’ve read in a bunch of other places that you can still be sued for patent infringement even if you didn’t know the patent existed.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I had such high hopes for you after reading the first two paragraphs… only to have you take a nosedive into stupidity in the final one.

Contrary to what you seem to believe, and important as it is, 7K is still far outside the ‘affordable’ zone in cost for anyone who actually worries about their finances. That’s in the range for a fairly nice used car, and most people would seriously struggle to just up and buy one of those.

Of course a big difference between the two is, you can make payments on a car, you don’t have to shell out the entire price at once. I rather doubt the company would be willing to let her make payments on their insanely priced software, and on the very off chance that they were, you can bet she’d end up paying far more than 7K by the time it was fully ‘bought’.

Souvik (profile) says:

Re: Re:

” If one of my children had this issue, $7000 would seem a small price to pay to achieve the end result.”

Since I have a child who is autistic I can say share my perspective. I can afford 7000$ if that was the only thing that my child needed. Currently she undergoes intensive therapy which costs around 50K a year. While this 50K is currently being funded by our district, I have paid for this while she was on a waitlist for 2 years. The funding may disappear at any time when(not if) the district gets into financial trouble. Other than this I have spent thousands on speech therapy.
I consider myself lucky that between me and my wife we have the earning capability to support these costs and that we have received this additional funding, but not everyone is in the same situation.

Still I would hesitate to buy this tool for 7K till I am absolutely sure that my daughter likes the tool. I have been looking at AAC apps for Ipad and android for a long time and there are a few good ones in the 200 dollar range. Then there are others which charge a monthly subscription. it would be shame if those apps get into similar patent problems.

P.S. – Just to clarify.. I am not taking any kind of offense to the comment posted by Anonymous. He/she has presented a really good comment. Just sharing my perspective about why the decision to spend 7K is not an easy one.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

If anything, it depends on the business model if it’s workable. Some charge a high fee upfront with no monthly, while others have a low fee then make up on the “back end” via monthly payments.

It could also be that they are using those subscription fees to support the product, as programmers aren’t cheap. While I am a big fan of, and contributor to, open source projects…there are many times when companies use closed source/subscription models which are fair and workable, like you say. If they are being douches about it, someone should be able to come along and provide a better mousetrap for cheaper.

Charlie (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The article stated she ‘tried’ what the 7K programs offered and they were not right for a 4yo child. I believe from her comments she would pay without a question if it actually would work for her. The only party with a hangup on the money side seems to be the patent holder. I think that the shame route may be the only available option at this point.

Eric Roberts (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Anonymous coward…how appropo…It’s easy to say 7k is nothing when you aren’t int he position of having to shell that out…especially if you are already struggling to make ends meet. 7k is outrageous for any software application of this type. This is an individual app…not an enterprise application or anything like that where i would expect to see high prices in the 1000’s of dollars. This is just plain greed. They know they are the only ones or part of a small group of companies that are probably guilty of price collusion…so they can charge whatever outrageous price they want. It’s is sickening. To be more accurate, it is almost impossible not to find a sad story in business today because the business world is only driven by greed and who can rake in the most cash. At one time it was driven by innovation and applications/products were offered, in situations like this, at cost or for a nominal fee to cover costs and a little profit. Don’t assume they didn’t check with the government. Keep in mind that the government is slashing spending and thanks to the republicans in our government, most of that slashed spending is at the expense of the sick and poor/middle class, while the rich enjoy luxurious tax cuts that serve only to swell their coffers… Throw in Corporate welfare and the rest of us don;t stand much of a chance at getting any help at all. I am a disabled veteran and you should see what i go through to get things done at the VA to get proper compensation for my injuries and the issues that developed later in life as a result. The government doesn’t give its money freely, unless of course you can contribute thousands and millions to their campaign coffers or spend millions for lobbyists (yay Citizens United).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Mar 27th, 2012 @ 7:47am

Except that it isn’t as good. The whole point of this app is that it’s so convenient. The girl has to want to and be able to use the software in question. And that you assume 7k$ is doable for anybody shows you are privileged. Some people don’t earn enough to have that much on top of food and rent — like many young parents. My parents certainly wouldn’t have been able to when I was two.

This case is an excellent example of why software patents don’t make sense. You can target even vaguely similar patents (one of the company’s is for a mechanical keyboard), disabling competitors from being creative. In addition, some solutions immediately arise as canonical — anyone who starts solving a problem gets to the same logical solution. In this case software patents effectively patent the problem, not the solution.

Shannon Watts says:

Re: Re:

I can see why you would think this. Before I became the parent of a special needs child I would have thought the same as well. Insurance will sometimes cover the cost of certain AAC devices but only if you use the ones they want you to use; completely regardless of whether or not they actually will work for your child. I do not know of any federal or state assistance for AAC devices outside of grant writing which is a long and uncertain process and most special needs parents do not have the extra time that it takes to do these things. Sounds like an excuse I know but walk a mile and then get back with me. As for the 7K seeming like a small price, I agree with you in principle. However, add things like multiple therapies @ $100 bucks an hour x several hours a week + medications + out of network specialists + in network deductibles and I think you’ll easily see why no parent would want to foot that bill for a device that doesnt even work as well as a much cheaper more user friendly option. Again, I understand the spirit of your post, but walk a mile in my shoes my friend and I think you would see things differently.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Did you read the article? The other systems (including the lawsuit filers) didn’t work for her kid. They were convoluted and difficult to learn. And neither had an iPad or mobile app.

Plus, $7k to some people can take years to save. If you make $30k a year and have to pay rent, put food on the table etc, it’s darn near impossible.

And if someone else can prove that the CONCEPT can be profitably delivered to market at $10, then that $7,000 price tag suddenly becomes extortion, not sales.

Anonymous Coward says:

I would also add this:

“Patents Threaten To Silence A Little Girl, Literally”

Really, it’s:

“Lack of desire to pay threatens to silence a little girl”.

At least try to get the story right. The equipment and software is available, patents are not stopping that – they are only stopping the cheapie knock off using the technology without paying for it.


Re: Re: Re: Fight illiteracy: READ.

Did you read the article?

An iPad is DIRT CHEAP compared to the devices the patent holder wants to sell you. This is a direct consequence of having been granted “ownership” of this sort of device and being completely free from competition.

Someone decided to step up and fill the gaps left by the monopoly holder. The prize for their innovation and improvement of the state of the art is a patent suit from the monopoly holder.

THIS is why patents are inherently bad. Even when they are legitimate, they are still BAD. This harm needs to be weighed against the social good of granting it.

Patents are a poison and they are treated like candy.

Laurel says:

Re: Re: Re:

If you read the full blog or knew Dana from Facebook or her award-winning blog, you’d know they spent MONTHS trying the high-end products. Its not that they are expensive. These parents have put out a ton of money over the years to help their daughter in a variety of ways. Its that the products offered from those companies DIDNT MEET THE NEEDS OF THEIR DAUGHTER. Get your head out of your backside and get a life. Insulting a family trying to give a voice to their special needs child is really a low place to be. Shame on you.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And the true colors of AC’s comes out. What a scumbag.

“the cheapie knock off” You mean the one that actually worked and let that little girl communicate?

“The equipment and software is available” – You just have to bend over to get it. 7 grand.

We see you for what you greetards are. You would sell out you own mothers for the right price.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You obviously missed the bit where they said the equipment and software sold by the patent holders didn’t work for Maya right?

And that “Speak For Yourself” isn’t a knock off but was designed from the ground up by the people selling it for $300 on iTunes. If anything it’s a refinement and improvement over the existing software and hardware.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

no pretty sure they saw that and didnt care…

This story shows the problems with patents today and why the whole damn system needs to be rolled back (and i have 3 patents of my own, and I will be the first to tell you the system is shit and needs to be fixed)

Dont elminate make it reasonable.. but government and reason are often fair appart…

MrWilson says:

Re: Re: Re:

This is the point that the IP maximalists keep glossing over. They always pretend that every possible violation of a patent is from copying rather than independent invention. The concept of independent invention is just lost on them. They make statements about other people “using the technology” when that’s really not happening. They’re essentially bratty little kids saying, “I did that first, you can’t do it too!”

iBelieve says:

Re: Companies in positions to do good

aught not be tempting fate by doing the opposite, like hiding behind false mission statements, while legally woeful words such as unconscienable and antitrust whir about outside their corporate headquarters. Also, if laws can’t be trusted to protect the public, then corporations should not have the priveledge of battening down their hatches without owning up to the responsibility of guarding public trust when basic human rights are at stake, especially. Otherwise, just go ahead and eat us.. the hungry, angry monsters that you’ve become will never satisfy your voracious appetites anyway.

G Thompson (profile) says:

This has an easy fix and one that the USPO, the Expensive patent holder, nor apple will like very much.

Remove the App, redo it onto Android (Windows Phone would work as well but..eek) Sell it for tablets that run on the operating system of choice NOT iOS since it is closed and they being a US company will abide by the idiotic US courts.

Do all of this OUTSIDE of the USA where Software patents are unenforceable! Some nice country with a great economy maybe.. Brazil springs to mind.

In fact if it is a Medical/Psychological hardship need then the patent might be even voidable anyway anywhere except for the USA.

Oh and if the original software patent holder is peeved and wants to come after whomever does it, well good luck to them. Maybe outside of the USA they might find that courts dont really care much for their sort of heavy handedness.

Even better, the Doctors could altruistically make the code Open Source (GPL at minimum) and release it into the wild.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

That’s kind of hard to do as the developer would have to load it locally to the device via the SDK unless the device is jail-broken.

However, someone (even another developer) could write something similar for an Android tablet, load it on one and just send it to her. Hell, if the expense becomes an issue I bet you could even crowd source this sort of solution. I’d donate to that.

Tor (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Do all of this OUTSIDE of the USA where Software patents are unenforceable! Some nice country with a great economy maybe.. Brazil springs to mind.” “Brazil?s patent office has launched a consultation about granting software patents” πŸ™

“Even better, the Doctors could altruistically make the code Open Source (GPL at minimum) and release it into the wild.”

Or the state could finance the development and it could be released for free (both as in beer and as in speech). That might turn out to be cheaper than subsidizing proprietary aids anyway.

Cowardly Anonymous says:

Re: Re:

As for the idea of redoing it on the android: one of my Professors currently has some people working on a project of the same nature. I’ll drop him their names and explain the situation. They should be able to do the conversion rather simply, as it would more or less be adapting what they have to the Doctors’ database and interface.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If they remove it from the App Store there is nothing stopping them from distributing it from the own site the same way that Android developers do that have apps that Google block from the market. The only difference is that you have to jailbreak the iPad before you can load them whereas there is no such silly restriction on most Android devices.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Re: Re: Re:2 There are plenty of people distributing unauthorized iOS apps for jail-broken iPhones and iPads from external sites.

Sure. But escaping from the walled garden isn?t a once-and-for-all done deal. From that point on, you are living life on the run, like a fugitive, forever looking over your shoulder in case the next software update corrals you back under Apple?s thumb again.

Not the way I want to live my life.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: You're an idiot

You can download the source code directly tom Google, modify it and compile it yourself and if the code is compatible with your specific hardware and you have rooted your device, you can load your custom ROM on it and it will work. There are tons of customized ROMs out there that you can download that have been made for devices on the market. Not so with iOS.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: You're an idiot

Ah yes, that would be why Android is so open that literally anyone can get the source code from Google and modify it to their heart’s content and then release custom ROMs to the world/Android community at large.

In fact, the only part of Android that “is no more “open” than iOS” are Google’s proprietary apps. Gmail, Docs, Play Store, etc. And EVEN THEN you can still package them separately or find them online to flash them along with the zip file for the Custom ROMs.

Sorry, but there’s only one idiot here, and it’s YOU. Stop being such a wanker in general. No one cares about you or your opinion, as mis/uninformed as it is. Maybe if you got a clue and didn’t act like such an idiot/douchebag people might listen to you. Then again, they probably never will. And I for one don’t blame them.

Oh, and might I add, consider yourself PROPERLY informed now.

Hamranhansenhansen says:

Re: Response to: G Thompson on Mar 27th, 2012 @ 7:53am

Android is not “the operating system of choice.” iOS has a larger installed base and has always had a larger installed base. Further, iOS has a single, unified 3rd party app platform and a successful PC form factor. The idea that Android is the solution for running a 3rd party PC app is ludicrous. When you consider the user is a little girl who is trying to communicate in basic words for the first time, your suggestion is malicious.

TimK (profile) says:

2 better options...

As I see it, limiting connectivity of the iPad is not the best choice.

I’d like to see the app creators do two things.

1. Release the app on the side and not through iTunes. Then Apple can’t block it or remove it. I think the girl’s mother would have to jailbreak her iPad to install the app (as would anyone else – but my understanding is this is pretty easy) but this way she doesn’t lose all the other usefulness of the tablet.

2. Port the app to Android. Any Android device can sideload apps without even being jailbroken, plus this gives more people access to the app with more affordable options than the iPad.

By doing these two things and making the app available elsewhere from the Apple app store, it pretty much makes it impossible to stop. The app can be mirrored, hosted outside the US, copied and redestributed endlessly, guaranteeing that it will always be available somewhere and even the greatest game of internet whack-a-mole won’t stop it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: 2 better options...

Actually, you don’t have to “jailbreak” the Aria anymore. And by “jailbreak” I mean use and UNAUTHORIZED method to unlock the bootloader for the device so that you can root it or load a custom ROM. HTC started releasing a manufacturer approved method for unlocking the bootloader a while back for most of their devices. It still will void your warranty but you should be able to find either an update you can flash or load a custom ROM that still has the controls that allow you to change the permissions setting to allow apps to be installed from sources other than the market which apparently was removed by AT&T prior to releasing the device.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: 2 better options...

In addition to the method you describe above, which should be noted, HTC is updating regularly (as far as adding more unlockable devices to the list). There’s also an “approved” method by AT&T for sideloading apps onto a device. I don’t have a link to it. But I believe you can Google “AT&T official sideload program” or something to that effect and it will pop up. Just fyi, for those wondering.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: 2 better options...

And I have to add. I don’t know about the Aria but for many of the HTC phones (like my EVO 4G for instance) there are rooted Sense based ROMs many of which are stock or very similar to the stock one so you may be able to find one that doesn’t dramatically change the UI that you are used to.

Mr Krabs says:

Re: Heartless troll

Is killing people or ruining their lives more important than making more money than you need?

Oh, fuck the people! This is MONEY we’re talking about here!!! Their lives are sucking away money that *I* could be getting!!! I’d kill them all myself! for the right price of course

Jeremy says:

Aren't patent's also a responsibility?

Owning a patent should be a privilege and a responsibility to use the knowledge you have protection for to better humanity. I should think the responsibility should be strong enough to force patent holders to meet customer demands or face the loss of the patent.

Basically, those who own patents should be legally forced to manufacture, not simply own the rights to knowledge.

Prisoner 201 says:

Re: Aren't patent's also a responsibility?

“Owning a patent should be a privilege and a responsibility to use the knowledge you have protection for to better humanity.”

This is why I think medical research and development should be run by the people, for the people.

Yes this is downright socialism, but some functions are too important to entrust to profit-hungry corporate sharks.

You simply can not measure a healed injury or a saved life on the same scale as money.

That said, for non-critical functions I amm all for loosely regulated market economy.

The right tool for the job, and screw left, right, red, blue and all the other ways to lump politics into easily digested us/them mindframes. But I digress.

Money with Attitude says:

Re: Re: Aren't patent's also a responsibility?

except it doesnt work… its shown time and time again… you need a hybrid… You get a patent, you have an obligation. We as a society grant you this right of patent (so you can make back the investment and some profit) and you accept the obligations ( limited term, some kind of not taking the piss out of people portion, and at the end the knowledge becomes public for all to use and build off of with out any fees) any good business man can find 50 ways to make money off this, the public gets served correctly and honestly and openly.

Right now Patents/Copyright are so one sided that the public sees no reason for the corps and lawyers to keep making money off of everybody for no reason (well other than the shill money).

If it was a two way street and the public was served correctly, nobody would have any issue with a company/person having a copyright or patent and making some money… then it goes back to the public.. and the company moves onto the next big thing/project – the best part it becomes better money to cure a disease than treat the diease

Money with Attitiude says:

Re: Re: Re: Aren't patent's also a responsibility?

oh and put something in the new one that says if you have a patent and are putting up roadblocks (or taking the piss) then a judge can break it (so if you sue and get righthaven hammered the judge just breaks your patent or copyright for not respecting your obligation)

I bet they fall over themselves to talk first and sue as a last resort…

ChrisB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Aren't patent's also a responsibility?

> entrust to profit-hungry corporate sharks

The reason the patent system is so messed up is it is already socialism. You still want the monopoly, but instead of a corporate monopoly you have a government-run monopoly. You trust the government not to mess it up?

How about we get rid of the damn monopolies and just let the corporations duke it out. No patents — prices will be low — everyone wins.

Anthony says:

Re: Re: Aren't patent's also a responsibility?

Given that governments created the patent problems discussed here in the first place, isn’t it a bit misguided to assume that the solution is even more government violations of the free market?

Also, the the other quote– if patents were a responsibility, then it would be at a loss the holder, so nobody would want them. Their only use is to enforce a monopoly, by their very nature.

Badger says:

Re: Aren't patent's also a responsibility?

“Owning a patent should be a privilege and a responsibility to use the knowledge you have protection for to better humanity. I should think the responsibility should be strong enough to force patent holders to meet customer demands or face the loss of the patent.

Basically, those who own patents should be legally forced to manufacture, not simply own the rights to knowledge.”

If you do this then why would most people file for a patent? I own 2 patents and I’m broke. But you would have the government LEGALLY force me to manufacture.. or what? Throw me in jail? Take away the money I don’t have?

Your heart is in the right place, and I applaud that, but a knee-jerk reaction is never the best solution. The patent system is already set up so that after a certain number of years the patent is released to the public, allowing anyone to use it (hence generic prescription drugs). A more realistic solution would be to reduce the amount of time that a patent was owned.

And yes, inventing something often takes time and hard work, the patents need to be protected for that reason, the same way your wages are. The person (original inventor) who took that time and invested that money into deserves to reap some rewards from it. Though admittedly many take it too far.

Anonymous Coward says:

You can’t patent scientific principles. If the app was truely based on “motor learning principles” it will not be seen as infringing. The courts will decide if that is truely the case. The system is working as designed. If the case is meritless, the accused can file to be reimbursed for legal expenses.

Leigh, your sensational headline is intended to tug at the heartstrings of your audience but this really isn’t about a little girl. It’s about a dispute between two organizations.

Suja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Leigh, your sensational headline is intended to tug at the heartstrings of your audience but this really isn’t about a little girl. It’s about a dispute between two organizations.

I know it’s hard to believe but there’s more to this world than organizations, what they’re doing & what they want.

Almost everything they do affects this world in some way, and it is often the rest of the world who needs to pay for their petty disputes.

People are getting tired of being treated like ants in comparison to huge giant corporations that step on them and flood their nests over stupid shit nobody but the corporations themselves care about.

Jake (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Leigh, your sensational headline is intended to tug at the heartstrings of your audience but this really isn’t about a little girl. It’s about a dispute between two organizations.


This is about a broken system, allowing a company to attempt to halt innovation, to protect their own ridiculous profits, and in the process possibly take away a little girl’s ability to communicate in the most efficient manner.

DCX2 says:

Re: Re:

Leigh, your sensational headline is intended to tug at the heartstrings of your audience but this really isn’t about a little girl. It’s about a dispute between two organizations.

This isn’t just a dispute between two organizations. There is huge consumer demand for an iPad-type app that does this. This is a dispute between an organization and the market’s demand.

And that little girl is a part of the market.

Dez (profile) says:

Used widely

My wife’s classroom uses iPad’s and iPod’s with this software or software like it to let their students speak. Many of these students are just as non-verbal as the girl in the story. They’ve spent money from their limited budget to enable these kids. It’s sad to think that their ability to speak and my wife’s ability to understand them may be taken away due to a company not wishing to open a new market for themselves.

Dustin (profile) says:

So I just spent the better part of the morning reading this woman’s blog and I came away feeling even more enraged about this entire situation. For the record:

It’s not the $7,000 that they have an issue with. If it worked and was right for their daughter then they would find the $7,000 somewhere. Judging by their home… it doesn’t look like they’re wealthy or even well off. Simple middle class people trying to do their daughter right.

This application works! Yes, it’s an iPAD application. Who cares? IT WORKS. It is doing something none of the other solutions came anywhere near doing. And now the company is being sued?

We need to figure out who to write, who to email, and who to complain to. This is going on REDDIT and I hope it makes the front page. VIRAL IT.

artp (profile) says:

Use it or lose it

Current patent law allows someone to play “dog in the manger” with their patents … thus patent trolls. Assuming that ANY change in the patent laws are possible without someone screaming about damaging “Amurican biznuss”, I would suggest that if a patent is not being applied in a certain field, that the patent holder loses rights in that field.

If the law says that patents are granted as a state monopoly for the advancement of science, then they better show some advancement, or let someone else do it!

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Patent in question appears to be solid?

“””It’s hard not to sympathize with her position, even though the lawsuit and the patent in question, #5,920,303, both appear to be solid.”””

Leigh, pardon my french please, but fuck that shit. If you really believe that, you’ve drunk the kool-aid. “System and method for”, “System and method for”, “Method of”, what a load of crap. Those claims are too vague, which by the way is the same problem with software patents: a thousand different ways of coding a solution can be “covered” by one idioticly vague patent.

A patent should only EVER have been granted for an extremely specific implementation of a solution to a problem. It’s all of these insane “System and method” patents that let trolls lock up ideas without ever necessarily creating an actual product!

Ok, rant over. Time for coffee.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Patent in question appears to be solid?

Actually, after getting around the abstract of what the patent encompasses the rest of it is very specific, contains product drawings, logic charts and so on. Much better than the vast majority of software patents I’ve had the displeasure of slogging through.

In this case the abstract says system and methods which they go on to define in some detail.

Now, if it’s expansive enough to cover an iPad when the patent specifies things like a keyboard and what appears to be a laptop as the “apparatus” is an interesting question.

Still, after all of that the suit may appear to be immoral from many perspectives in this case I’d rather say amoral.

Either way the patent holders have done a hell of a job highlighting themselves as greedy “big corporations” at the expense of Maya and other children. Way to go, guys!

Anonymous Coward says:

Why is sacrificing the future and in some cases lives of a few of life’s losers like this little kid such a big deal?

Thanks to the patent system, thousands of nearly-dead millionaires and billionaires can eat caviar for breakfast and run vintage champagne through their taps.

Jesus, people! Stand up for the Number 1 American Value: GREED!

[citation needed or GTFO] says:

Dana's responses on her blog

From her blog:

1. Maya can’t speak because she doesn’t have enough control of the muscles in her mouth to do so.

2. I’ve passed along the EFF and other info in the comments to the SfY team.

3. Most of the tech recommendations (jailbreaking, coding, open sourcing) go right over my non-tech head. Maya’s iPad will likely be disconnected from syncing with the apple store, however, if I feel like her app is in jeopardy of being remotely deleted.

4. Some people have commented (elsewhere) that this is an emotional plea that has no place in patent debates. Well, maybe. I’m leaving the patent debates to people who actually know how to debate patents, and I’m going to stick to writing what I know—here, what I know is that I love this app and I’m angry it’s in jeopardy, especially since I think that it’s *unfairly* in jeopardy.

5. I’m aware about Proloquo2Go, TouchChat, and the other communication apps on the market. In my opinion, they are not as good. Certainly, they are not a good fit for Maya. After a year of trying things, Speak for Yourself came onto the market and was a (nearly) perfect match. I’m really happy that the other apps work well for other kids and adults, but they just don’t for us.

6. Thanks for stopping by, for adding some different perspectives to the mix, and for sharing the story of this lawsuit.

7. The actual lawsuit is linked in the blog post, so if you wanted to see the patent details I think that’s where you would look.


For another perspective on this case, please go check out what Robert Rummel-Hudson has to say, here:

To the anonymous defender of PRC:
The Vantage Lite actually wouldn’t work as well for my daugher. I know this, because I tried it. Speak for Yourself is beautiful in the simplicity of its layout and user-friendliness—both features surpass the Vantage Lite.

As far as claiming that the free trainings are what gave SfY the ideas for the app . . . well, I guess they’ll have to prove that in court. And I think they’ll have a hell of a time doing it.

david says:

pirate it

All this will change is the app will need to be pirated instead of paid for. Good apps are good and you cant get rid of them once they are public if the company that makes the app is as concerned about its users as it sounds like they are they should post there source code online for freeware developers to create a free use based product that will not fall under the patent filing since there is no profit being sought.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Prior Art: MindReader, circa 1987

There was a program called MindReader, circa 1987, which sounds something like this. When you typed keys in MindReader, every so often, it would put up a display of options to complete the word, indicated by number keys if I remember correctly. There was an article in Byte when MindReader first came out, I don’t recall the citation off the top of my head. As I recall, Mindreader was pitched to executives who did not know how to type, and carried a fairly high pricetag. It went nowhere in the market, and was into shareware in a couple years. I got it as shareware, installed it, and decided it wasn’t all that wonderful in practice. My assessment at the time was that it might be useful for handicapped people, but for someone who was merely a slow typist, it was not workable. However, I left it installed, and when I broke my arm in 1996, I tried using it again, with indifferent results. The Dasher program, developed in the Physics department of Cambridge University by Prof. David J.C. MacKay FRS, is much more satisfactory as an assistive device than MindReader was, though it is not as fast as an efficient two-handed typist.

I recommend Dasher to those of my friends who manage to do unfortunate things to themselves.

I very much suspect that MindReader may be prior art to Patent 5,920,303; it does not appear in the patent’s bibliography; and I would strongly advise any interested party to obtain a copy of MindReader, and play with it to form their own opinion. You may well find that the patentees had subscriptions to Byte at the relevant dates, and if so, all kinds of possibilities arise.

The reason MindReader failed in the market was that it tried to address a problem that wasn’t there. Executives avoided typing like the plague because they thought typing was a girlish thing to do. Women with MBA’s or law degrees were advised to pretend that they could not type, lest someone try to demote them to the typing pool.

There were exceptions, of course. For newspaper reporters, typing was macho, because there were role models of war reporters sitting in trenches and typing their stories on little portable typewriters as bullets whizzed by overhead. And then, of course, there were computer programmers using keypunches.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: Prior Art: MindReader, circa 1987 (re my #145, 153)

After a bit of digging, I was able to find some proper citations for Mindreader. It now seems that MindReader has priority at least back to September 1985. Incidentally, it turns out that MindReader _does_ use the number keys to indicate choice of words.

Infoworld, articles from, Jan-May, 1986

ERIK SANDBERG-DIMENT, “PERSONAL COMPUTERS, PERSONAL COMPUTERS; ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: NEW SOFTWARE ARRIVES,” New York Times, Published: September 17, 1985, gives basic description of Mindreader operation.

older patent filed, 1993, cites Mindreader.

Index to back issues of BYTE, year 1986, has entry, “Businessoft Mindreader word processor (E. Shapiro), Aug 319”

Ezra Shapiro, “More Words,” Byte, August, pp. 319-22. Covers MindReader, briefly and inter alia, not in quite so much detail as the New York Times article.

383bigblock (profile) says:

$7K or you don't love your kid

How absurd is it to think that not ponying up $7K means you don’t think your kid is worth that much. As someone who maxed out my Out Of Pocket medical expenses last year for cancer, I can tell you that I’m pretty sure that there are many other $7K solutions that family is also needing to invest in. They are probably spending everything they have on this and other medical related items for this child. If it were only just $7K. I can’t imagine that the company couldn’t release a $50 to $100 app and not sell 100 or even a 1000 times more than what they are selling at $7K. The only way the $7K makes sense is if they are bleeding the insurance companies dry…..and in that case we’re all paying for it anyway.

This comapany is the poster child for being a Putz!

Jim McCoy says:

A Different Perspective

While I can emphasize with the family, objectively I have to ask: did the defending company impinge on their patents?

Rule of law sometimes is unkind and often cruel, but without it we descend into chaos and anarchy. That being said if this is a derivative invention with no ties to the PRC and SCS patents then fine, fight on. However, if Speak for Yourself DID impinge on those patents. Then they should lose, simple.

For profit business is exactly what it sounds like, for profit, not good will. That being said however, negotiation would have probably been a better topic (preferably with a cost-benefit analysis of how a lower price would have gained more customers). Only thing this will probably do is cause increased bad blood, an injunction on what seems like pretty cool software, and a little girl who will have a delay in speaking properly (if at all).

Anonymous Coward says:

I wonder...

Let’s say the company wins the case and the app disappears not only from the app store but also from her iPad. As due to this action on their part, there would then be no viable solution for this girl when there once was, I wonder if there might be grounds for a civil rights case for discrimination based on age and disability?

Anonymous Coward says:

Trust me – if your child falls into the category of needing this sort of support, $7000 for a device is not your only expense. Wheelchairs that cost as much as a car, standing frames, walkers, in home seats, bath seats, shower seats. Insurance only covers a fraction – if you are resilient enough to keep trying after their standard refusals. Govt funding supports partial or drip feeds one piece of equipment at a time.
And these expensive devices go out of date as quickly as any other piece of technology. So I’ve got a second-hand device I paid $5000 for two years ago (instead of $13,000 new) and it’s got 256MB of RAM. While you’d naturally want to upgrade, you can’t because the device is so locked it will collapse if you tinker with it. But the monopoly has no incentive to upgrade because they want to sell me another one for $13,000. And no – insurance doesn’t think I need a new one that often. Arghhh.

F Lengyel (profile) says:

Intellectual monopolists emerge in full force

The intellectual monopolists are shouting from their deathbeds and wheelchairs that preserving government granted monopolies for the wealthy few beats the spread of innovation. They would surely join the wealthy to systematically win asymmetric zero-sum games against the public, just as soon as they emerge from their deathbeds and wheelchairs to finance without health insurance their own inventions. If only they had the money they forfeited in exchange for their own immobility.

Cogito says:

What? What is a copyright violation?

I dont quite understand. How does one infringe on a copyright? Aside from creating a competitive product, how has any copyright been violated? If I do all the science, all the math, all the design, hardware, software, programming… built a product from ground up from concept to prototype… all on my own innovative, intellectual, and engineering skill… having stolen no designs or plans of any sort… how have I violated someone elses copyright? To me, that is exactly what competition entails.

JustMe (profile) says:

Do the right thing or be invetigated

Odd that they are being sued by both of the major players, and that neither has released a cheap iPad application. Interesting, since one would think that this should be a great market to be in. I think that the Fed needs to investigate both Semantic Compaction Systems and Prentke Romich Company for violations.

Jon Euan says:

The Patent Holders Have Failed

Put simply, this will never go away while there are private companies using patents and copyright to act in their own interests (which inherently don’t serve the people).

Corporations are an abstract entity and should always be second to the people.

There’s a very simple solution. The people do everything for the people. No patents, no copyright, it’s all for the people. So government of the people, for the people by the people; services of the people, for the people, by the people.

But the US will cry communism, even though capitalism is a bigger social failure than *totalitarian* communism (which I’m not espousing but they assume all communism is!)

Gabriel Garay says:

Market forces?

You say: “The simple fact is that markets always eventually find a way to meet demands?and if companies (especially those in industries that seriously affect people’s lives) use their intellectual property to block powerful market forces, that control will eventually be wrested from them, one way or another”

But what about ppl suffering from illnesses or disorders that affect just a few human beings in the world? Then (as I’ve sadly witnessed) there’s nothing you can do to make those companies release affordable solutions, and the net result of this is: lovely and valuable people die (sometimes horribly), leaving families and loved ones drowning in their own tears.

So much for taking capitalism to extremes.

Big companies, duh. “Our mission, blah, blah, blah…”.

Mission, my a**.

Ninja (profile) says:


Jesus, you are illiterate or spectacularly dense or abysmally evil. More than one option may apply.

The iPad app is a solution that their daughter adapted to. If the company focused on producing an app to iPad it makes sense she bought an iPad so her daughter can use it. The fact is that this software is the only piece of software that the kid managed to use and the freaking 7k dollars option wasn’t good enough.

Then they find a perfectly affordable option that some smart ppl made that provides a better, intuitive experience for the kid (something the almighty big corp neglected) and now there’s the risk it all goes down the drain because of a stupid patent with a freaking broad language that allows for all kinds of interpretations. The patent system is broken.

Seriously, you area prime example of what’s most rotten and bad in humanity so do us a favor and go throw yourself from a cliff along with your greedy friends so our world becomes a little better.

Anonymous Coward says:

Market forces?

I can understand if the company don’t want to release something for kids or the iPad. But to try and take away something where someone has attempted to fill that void and provide for a true human need all for the sake of their own personal greed is true definition of evil incarnate.

And for the IP maximalists claiming they speak from the “moral high ground”? Two words: F*** You!

everlearn says:

Added Cost

It costs $500 a year to simply purchase a warranty for a Prentke Romich voice output device (the warranty that does not include a loaner). Proprietary, so they are the only ones to fix an errant PRC device and one must pay this every year. Yes, this is like buying an iPad every year on top of the $7000 device. I support R&D and appreciate the investment it requires for a small market, but the times and cost of R&D are a-changing, thanks to universal design and applicability. I wholly encourage PRC and others in the field to design apps!

staff says:

more dissembling

This is a another witch hunt for Masnick. Patents are not a threat but rather security for those who dare to risk their future to bring beneficial products and services to market against all odds. It’s about property rights. Economies are based on them. Without them no one will risk a venture.

Masnick and his monkeys have an unreported conflict of interest-

They sell blog filler and “insights” to major corporations including MS, HP, IBM etc. who just happen to be some of the world?s most frequent patent suit defendants. Obviously, he has failed to report his conflicts as any reputable reporter would. But then Masnick and his monkeys are not reporters. They are patent system saboteurs receiving funding from huge corporate infringers. They cannot be trusted and have no credibility. All they know about patents is they don?t have any.

Anonymous Coward says:


It may be wrong, but think about it from a business standpoint. Tech like an ipad or a cell phone can have a low price since it appeals to a WIDE consumer base. Tech like these communication devices however, has a higher price since it only appeals to a small consumer base that may have a medical condition. It takes a lot of time and money to develop something like that I would imagine, so that’s probably why the price is so high.

slp tx says:

The real issue is not the child, the real issue is developers who stole proprietary and copyrighted material to design an app. Since when is is “okay” for someone in America to steal? I don’t understand why the developers seem so “angelic” in this article. They did something wrong. And apparently, they are not willing to deal with PRC to resolve the problem. They are the real demons in this whole scenario.
(And yes, there are plenty of options for the parent to get help with expensive medical devices, so money for the device is not the problem)

Shannon (profile) says:

there's always more to the story

As a Speech Language Pathologist I would like to support the $7000 PRC device. The language system is based on years and years of research to provide individuals with a language system that works! The iPad apps DO NOT compare to this system. The iPads are not as durable, do not have the support system available to trouble shoot if there are problems or to help teach students how to communicate using them, are not loud enough to be heard in a noisy room, and on and on…. I had questions about the app this article addressed and it took several months for the developers to answer a few questions I submitted. I have had iPads have technical issues and cannot talk to tech support unless we purchase (we being a school with limited funds and families with limited resources) an extended warranty plan. The true communication devices from PRC have wonderful technical support systems in place and speech pathologists to provide training and ongoing support. Please research the topic thoroughly and consult with Speech Pathologists who are in the field dealing with the influx of iPads on a daily basis which are not “the answer” for all kids before forming an opinion on the matter.

Brian says:

PRC Sinking

I am a Speech-Language Pathologist and have been for over 27 years. I have worked with PRC products and have taken the LAMP training. In my humble opinion PRC equipment is only useful to a mere few… compared to the cumbersome PRC boxes that get shoved in the closet or under the bed… on the State dime. I have observed families shell out big savings for PRC equipment, as a hope, only to be out the money and functionally disappointed. PRC devices are hard to program, are not user friendly, and need specialized batteries and repairs. I stopped recommending anything PRC a long time ago.

Clearly, PRC is way behind in cost, technology and usefulness. I hope they lose their suit and then dry up as a footnote in speech path history. Just my own thoughts…

digger says:


$7000 might be a small price to pay for someone who can afford all the latest tech goodies. People who are spending all their money on medical tech, doctors, referrals and treatments – 7k *IS* a ton of money in that case. If it was covered under an insurance plan as durable medical equipment that would be one thing, but chances are the insurance companies involved have written out any chance of covering those things just because they are expensive and necessary…

Fair and Square (user link) says:

Bonnie and Clyde

No, it’s stealing, which is a violation of one’s rights. I may sound heartless, but just because somebody is less fortunate (the SLPs) than a company doesn’t mean they need to pay for it, when the company has done nothing wrong and earned the money for itself through its own hard work.

Don’t get me wrong, if I see a poor bum on the street, I have money that I myself don’t need for me and my family, and I can trust that the bum will use it wisely, I will make a donation. But to steal, even for the “right reasons”, is still stealing.

I think the big question is “Is it right to steal from honest hard working people?”, i.e people who earned it fair and square.

Fair and Square (user link) says:

Bonnie and Clyde

No, it’s stealing, which is a violation of one’s rights. I may sound heartless, but just because somebody is less fortunate (the SLPs) than a company doesn’t mean they need to pay for it, when the company has done nothing wrong and earned the money for itself through its own hard work.

Don’t get me wrong, if I see a poor bum on the street, I have money that I myself don’t need for me and my family, and I can trust that the bum will use it wisely, I will make a donation. But to steal, even for the “right reasons”, is still stealing.

I think the big question is “Is it right to steal from honest hard working people?”, i.e people who earned it fair and square.

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