First off I want to say that I hold Mike Lee in the utmost respect and bear him absolutely no ill will. That said, I think his call for developers to “boycott” Apple’s iOS In App Purchase API both misses the point and doesn’t go far enough.
In his post Mike states:
What I propose is this: for every API that is infected by parasites, we cut off the branch and boycott the API. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect to be able to use an API without being sued, the same way it’s not unreasonable to expect to use an API without getting spam.
On the one hand I absolutely understand where Mike is coming from with this — with the caveat that it’s a bit naive to expect Apple Legal to have a public response to this issue after only three business days — and in another situation I might be in complete agreement. On the other hand, I think that focusing on the In App Purchase API misses a bigger point.
If we take a look at what the douchenozzles at Lodsys claim their patents cover, it’s fairly obvious that the current scuffle over In App Purchases is the tip of a much larger iceberg. Lodsys claims that their patents cover:
- providing online help, customer support, and tutorials
- conducting online subscription renewals
- providing for online purchasing of consumable supplies
- surveying users for their impressions of their products and services
- assisting customers to customize their products and services
- displaying interactive online advertisements
- collecting information on how users actually use their products and services
- selling upgrades or complimentary products
- maintaining products by providing users notice of available updates and assisting in the installation of those updates.
Read that list. Now read it again. Lodsys is basically claiming ownership of every method monetizing the Internet other than “a method of showing titties to horny teenagers.”
If we insist on Apple focusing its energy on the current ox being gored we run the chance of failing to avert the bigger disaster. Should Apple act swiftly to protect developers who have committed no crime other than to utilize an API promoted by Apple? Absolutely. But let’s not miss the forest for the trees. App developers will not be safe from Lodsys until their egregiously over-broad patents are invalidated.
While a boycott on the In App Purchase API might be emotionally satisfying, what we really need is a call for every company with an interest in the Internet: Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc. to band together to have Lodsys and their patents stricken from the planet.
Note: Neither Mike’s boycott or my counter-proposal addresses the desperate need for patent reform. That’s a seperate, and much larger debate.