Everybody is getting sued, now what?

Everybody is getting sued, now what?

Tonight we have a great Meetup over at MoDevDC. The topic is about Patent Infringement lawsuits and how developers can deal with them. Here is an overview of the night's presentation and discussion topics:

1) What is the overall situation?

We interviewed Florian Mueller, an Intellectual Property Law Expert and founder of the FossPatents Blog. He gave an overview of the current patent situation here in the US and how we can work with the current issues.

Here is Florian’s take on the overall situation.

2) I got sued. What do I do?

A developer's view is also presented on what one may do upon receiving a letter.

3) Patent Infringement 101

Rick Toering from Womble Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice, LLC,  gave a high-level description of the steps that are involved in a typical patent infringement defense case. He breaks down a case along with the typically cost of each step.

4) What can we do?

David DiGiammarino from Article One Partners talks about his firm's work and how crowd sourcing prior art can help the overall situation. The take away point is that if a group of us pro-actively go after patents that are being issued and collect prior arts, we may have a better chance against potential lawsuit ligtigation.

5) Why are software patents such a mess?

Our other organizer, Yermo Lamers, talks about a recent article that he wrote on “Why you shouldn’t be allowed to patent a better virtual mouse trap.” The article talks about someone patenting a virtual mouse trap for a potential game. A patent aggregation company bought that patent and start suing all virus scanning software companies. You can find the original article here.

We then go into a Q&A session with the following panelists:

Rick Toering – Patent Attorney, Womble Carlyle, Sandridget & Rice, LLC

Frances Weber – EVP, Article One Partners

David DiGiammarino – Director of Sales Article One Partners

Jonathan Freeman – CEO, WidgetPress

Yermo Lamers – CEO, App Update

Todd Moore – CEO, TMSoft

With over 80 attendees, it was a lively discussion to say at least.

Some of the questions:

-       Why don’t developers put more pressure on Apple and Google?

-       Can we file a class suit against these entities?

-       Can they sue me if I just offer my app for free?

-       How do I know if I infringe their patent or not?

-       If I am launching a new product, how do I make sure I don’t infringe in other people’s patent?

-       Is setting a LLC good enough?

-       Are LLCs in one state better than another?

The meeting went very well and it pave the way for more meetups like this, where we will explore real solutions.

One point that most attendees agree is that  the current situation is very dangerous. If we don’t find a solution quick, mobile development community as we know it may well cease to exist. The great innovation that has happened in the last 2 years will stop. We won’t have an app for everything, and we will go back to only big software companies creating products. That would be sad, indeed.

As I see it, we need new ways to defend these cases. The traditional defense cost 2+ million dollars and that is just way over budget for most mobile developers. Just like we productize software products, we need to “productize” the defense. We need to productize prior art search, productize patent search, productize patent litigation and productize settlement negotiation.

I hope this meeting starts a new round of conversation about finding real solutions to this problem.