Copycat, copycat!

As a technologist, the recent Apple vs. Samsung lawsuit is extremely concerning.

I was hoping all of this software patent nonsense would go away, but Apple just proved that the new business model is more about litigation than innovation.

As a company that essentially "stole" the entire desktop GUI and mouse concept from Xerox, you have to wonder how they arrived here.

Ironically, this concept was subsequently "re-stolen" by Microsoft to create Windows -- one of the most ubiquitous, profitable pieces of software ever.

Naturally, Apple sued Microsoft in 1988, a long and bitter lawsuit that wasn't resolved until 1994, when Microsoft won.

In the midst of this, Apple was actually sued by Xerox, a suit that was dismissed.

In the Apple vs. Microsoft ruling, the court stated: "Apple cannot get patent-like protection for the idea of a graphical user interface, or the idea of a desktop metaphor."

They obviously took this to heart, and started patenting every damn thing they came up with -- "innovative" or not.

Now they've finally received what they were looking for -- damages for copying (what are essentially) ideas.

True innovation is always an incremental improvement on existing technology.

However, in a world where 6-month old technology is considered obsolete, a patent that can last up to 20 years just doesn't make sense.

Now, with my project management startup, PMRobot, I have to consider the huge, impending risk that a large incumbent has a patent "war chest" they're sitting on, just waiting to unleash it as soon as one of their competitors are successful.

What are my options as a small startup?
  1. Build a massive paper trail and file as many "defensive" patents as I can, as insurance.
  2. Estimate and factor in a possible "patent tax" to future financial projections.
  3. Close my eyes, cross my fingers, and hope this insanity ends.
I really hope the Apple decision gets overturned, and we start cleaning up this whole software patent mess.

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