As a software developer, strong opinions exist on the "open source" versus "proprietary" software debate with regards to "intellectual property". Are patents or copyrights legally justified? Does open-source software hinder or hurt innovation?
These are the sorts of questions that have been in the news lately as wireless and mobile phone carriers strive to limit competition and corner the market through a myriad of barriers to entry said companies erect to squash new entrepreneurial entrants.
Today, it is common place now a days for software giants to stockpile a war chest of "patents" for chunks of functionality for a given electronic device. How silly is it that if I'm off in a lab at the center of the earth trying to design the NEXT big thing (let's say some type of Operating System for a phone). But, if I'm using some commonly used design patterns, code, and algorithms which someone else already implemented in a current product blessed by the State's patent office, I'm up a creek without a paddle..
Why does this madness pass the legal smell test?
The absurdity of intellectual property has really been exposed in ongoing Oracle vs. Google (Android OS) battle. Can anyone make any sense out of this? Since Google implemented and used some JAVA "APIs" (Application Programming Interfaces) when it was building its code base for its Android OS (from scratch), allegedly Google "damaged" and "stole" resources from Oracle? Really?
Exactly what "property" was stolen and in what way was ownership transferred from Oracle to Google? Couldn't Oracle have come up with an OS faster and better than Google if it had access and knowledge of these super secret APIs? Would Oracle be suing Google if it wasn't one of the largest market cap phone software providers?
APIs are really just mechanisms for reading and writing data between two software entities. For example, Twitter has some elegant, yet simple APIs for reading and writing "tweets" on different software applications. If I write a similar application that uses the same API design to mimic the Twitter APIs, have I stolen or taken anything away from Twitter? No!!! All I've done is reuse the method/model of how data is conveniently exchanged.
I understand people may not have thought through all of the nuances of intellectual property and the justification of force by the State to grant monopoly privilege to such things as described above. But, I hope this trial is a wake-up call for what is in store if Oracle wins this ridiculous case.