Photo: Flickr/Kevin Krejci
Former Yahoo engineer Andy Baio says that he’s “embarrassed” that he’s named on four patents that Yahoo owns, and calls Yahoo’s lawsuit against Facebook “deplorable” and a “betrayal.”Writing in Wired, Baio says that Yahoo bought his company Upcoming.org, and took control of the online calendar Baio had created.
Once Baio joined the company, he was encouraged to take part in Yahoo’s Patent Incentive Program. So he sat in a room with a couple of patent attorneys and described his inventions. The attorneys took notes, and eventually filed eight patents with Baio’s name on them. Four of them have been granted.
Baio says that none of his patents are being used in the Yahoo case, but admits one of them could have been:
One of the patents I co-invented is so abstract, it could not only cover Facebook’s News Feed, but virtually any activity feed.
He concludes that software patents should be abolished, and vows never to file another one.
That’s actually short-sighted.
According to patent expert Tom Ewing, who recently co-wrote a paper on how gigantic patent “aggregator” Intellectual Ventures does business, big software companies like Microsoft (and Yahoo) might actually be happy if software patents disappeared — they probably spend a lot more money defending themselves against trolls than they earn from their own patents.
Patents were originally invented to protect the little guy. Without them, big companies would find it easy to steal any idea that was gaining traction or threatening their core business, and give away the competing technology so the startup couldn’t make a dime.
Better to reform the system to make it harder to grant ridiculously broad licenses that can later be used as weapons.
Read his whole rant here.