The Unintended Consequences Of API Patents
25 Mar 2016
As I was reviewing patent #20160070605: Adaptable Application Programming Interfaces And Specification Of Same, from yet another person I know, after I pick my head up off the desk, I begin thinking about all of the unintended consequences of API patents. Here is the abstract from this work of beauty:
Aspects of the disclosure relate to defining and/or specifying an application programming interface (API) between a client and a computing device (such as a server) in a manner that the client, the computing device, or both, can evolve independently while preserving inter-operability.
This is something that WE ALL should be building into our clients, and is fundamental to all this API shit even working at scale. This particular patent is owned by Comcast, so I'm assuming it will be wielded in the courtroom, and leveraged in back room net neutrality discussions among cable and telco giants. There really isn't a lot of unintended consequences involved when two or three 1000 lb gorillas battle it out. The little people always suffer in these battles, and there really isn't much I can do--I will leave this to my friends in the federal government to take on.
Where I feel like I should be speaking up more, is when it comes to the patents being filed by my startup friends, like the hypermedia patents I talked about a few months ago. For weeks after I published that story, my friends came out of the woodwork to tell me this is what you have to do in this game, and they are well meaning, and would never ever use the patent for anything bad. Everyone I talked to I respect, and do believe they mean what they say, but its the unintended consequences that keep me up at night.
What happens after your startup is acquired, and you have cashed out, and long gone? Are you going to follow the company who acquired your startup and track on their litigation, and speak up? Maybe spending some of your fortune to protect the little guy or gal? What happens when your startup fails, and your investors parts out your company, and all of its assetts (cough cough patents), what recourse do you have here? Your VC's will assume your friendly stance on patent usage right? Right.
I know many of you like to brush me off as being an optimistic hippie, and naive of how things work (all without actually looking at my background). My response to that, is you should probably look around a little, understand the beast you work for and the damage they do in the world. I think you should examine your decisions to make when getting into bed with certain money men, and realize the machine you've become a cog in the wheel of. Only then you'll realize that the stories you tell me, and yourself to help you sleep at night, are fairy tales handed to you by the machine that will consume you.