Really unfortunate how this whole episode turned out. I think the one big thing they did wrong was to be so aggressive about the patents. If they had been humble and friendly all the way, some of the other shortcomings would have been looked over.
The IA patent issue is really what rubbed me the wrong way. It is even more irksome if they've taken the idea from Apple.
I've been a long time fan of IA and IA Writer. I have recommended the app to a ton of people. I don't think I'll be doing so any longer.
iA sought a patent, suggested that others could license the feature, and then were a little tone deaf when talking about it. Everyone's assuming that the patent was for Syntax Control, but the title of the provision patent was "Method of editing text in a text editor." It sounds like they're seeking to protect the process they've developed, of which Syntax Highlighting is part. One problem in this whole thing is that everyone freaked out and no one had even read the patent.
Besides that, I find the hyperbolic public statements of Marco Arment and DHH worse than anything iA did or didn't do. "Fuck iA and their products," really Marco? Sounds like you need a long drive in your M5 or a relaxing cup of Aeropressed home-roasted coffee.
Marco's argument is particularly galling...basically, "only big companies should have patents because they need them to defend against other big companies, while small innovators should just have their lunch taken from their mouths." That's BS. You can't just hide behind "the patent system is broken" argument forever.
One problem in this whole thing is that everyone freaked out and no one had even read the patent.
I’m not sure the text of the patent itself is important — the overtly aggressive nature of iA’s response, and the intention to use patents offensively is the issue.
You can't just hide behind "the patent system is broken" argument forever.
You can make sure you don’t compound the issue though.
Software patents don’t protect innovation. They destroy it.
I agree with this wholeheartedly.
The patent system is broken when Apple and Samsung hoard patents to hold over each other's heads. The patent system is broken when trolls collect patents with the intention extort settlements. It's not broken when a small innovator seeks a patent to protect a patentable innovation.
Besides, patents don't destroy innovation really. Litigation or threat of litigation destroy innovation. I guess that's why the aggression from iA rubbed some the wrong way. However, the failure of leaders in this community to engage in dialog (rather than outright and personal denouncement) rubs ME the wrong way... I can't be the only one.
It's not broken when a small innovator seeks a patent to protect a patentable innovation.
In this specific case, I completely disagree. NSLinguisticTagger and prior art suggests that it shouldn’t be patentable.
And that’s a huge part of the issue — if actually doesn’t matter if it is or not. Litigation or threat of litigation can be used, even if the patent wouldn’t hold up when challenged.
Make no mistake about it, the system only helps lawyers and incumbents with large portfolios. I’d also argue that the bad PR surrounding iA has cost them far more than any licensing fee they may hope to collect, especially if you consider the timing involved (the damage was done almost immediately, licensing may have not appeared for months or years).
I’d even take it a step further. Being so protective over you ideas and features makes you seem weak. Using litigation as a means to compete makes you seem weak. It suggests you feel like you have nothing more to offer and if someone incorporates your idea into their product that they’ll take a large chunk of your business.
We’ve had plenty of competitors use features that we created. That’s fine. Nothing we’ve ever built was created in a vacuum, either.
Besides, patents don't destroy innovation really. Litigation or threat of litigation destroy innovation.
Is there a difference? Why pursue a patent if you’re never going to use it?
However, the failure of leaders in this community to engage in dialog (rather than outright and personal denouncement) rubs ME the wrong way... I can't be the only one.
I like the response. If the law isn’t going to change, maybe patents can be used less if people vote against them with their purchasing decisions.
iA reacted quickly and positively, so I wish them the best and hope they make the necessary corrections for future products and announcements.
Thanks again for the thoughtful response.
"Weak" is a wird term, but I think you'd agree if I said that what you're getting at is that patent enforcement could allow a company to rest on their laurels, rather than continue to innovate the product, or create new ones. This resonates: holding onto a competitive advantage by continuing to sprint.
However, what if an innovator wants to peruse a licensing strategy? We've already agreed that iA acted like dicks in this case. Is there no place for selling your idea for others to build on? Otherwise, the choices are to have duplicate effort in the system for everyone to continually reinvent the wheel, or (you would say, maybe) that the information just wants to be free, so let it? This case specifically is probably not the best one to take up this issue.
Finally, do have to emphasize that the response by community leaders was not always particularly stellar. When Marco Arment decrees "fuck iA" there's something a little wrong.
"Weak" is a wird term, but I think you'd agree if I said that what you're getting at is that patent enforcement could allow a company to rest on their laurels, rather than continue to innovate the product, or create new ones.
Yep, I’d agree with that.
I like to think of patents as government sanctioned and enforced monopolies, because that’s effectively what they are. I think they were possibly a good idea when they were invented, but the use doesn’t fit software well. Certainly not in the volume the USPTO hands them out.
However, what if an innovator wants to peruse a licensing strategy?
Then I’d hope there was more value than just an easily copyable idea, using a built-in framework. I find it strange that the law puts so much emphasis on ideas, and so little emphasis on execution.
Copyright law already covers so much.
I like to think of patents as government sanctioned and enforced monopolies
...That run out over time, don't forget. Good for the age of steam engines, I guess harmful in the faster moving world of software development.
Copyright law already covers so much
I didn't realize until recently that software patents are granted for ideas or psuedo code, not implementation. This seems to be a problem...without the general-specifics of implementation, how is a patent different than a copyright? (this is rhetorical, no need to answer)
I've purchased it too. I never used anything like it, saw the video on Twitter and moved over to the App Store immediately (Guess they triggered me quite well..) After installation I was quite satisfied with it, since I never had/used a bare bone writer solution. If I read this post I also think it's quite strange with this syntax control and stuff.
My conclusion, it's good, but not better in comparison with the old(er) version I guess..
I agree with the arguments made here, but on a serious note this is a rant of really heavy user demand. I mean iA is a prestigious company out there and are always a great inspiration for the design community. They are clearly saying to the audience that this is an application for professional writers and so on. Then, people watch a video, squander away 20 bucks and then rant about how the software doesn't meet their expectations. I mean, who cares? Don't like it, demand iTunes for a refund and get on with your lives. Secondly, its version 1! Im sure they are listening to all your feedback, be it a black background or dropbox sync. Users these days!
Worth noting they have publicly declared that they are dropping / canceling / not pursuing their pending patent. [https://twitter.com/iA/status/416393539182796800]