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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Companies: prentke romich, semantic compaction systems, speak for yourself

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Comments on “Patent Settlement Ends Fight Over Helpful Speech App — But Leaves Questions About Patent Bullies”

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Anonymous Coward says:

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!

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

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.

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