By KZeni 7 Comments
So I find myself as the top commenter on a reddit topic where someone previously posted about an ingenious control scheme for inputing text with a game controller that was essentially a ripoff of what was used in the original Killzone (video). Here we are a few months later, and they've posted another topic revisiting the "innovative" idea (that was pointed out as not being innovative month prior in their previous topic) with a video, further details, and claims to be in the process of patenting it. Is a control scheme for inputting text patentable in your mind? As it turns out... someone already patented the idea in 2007, but I actually don't think patents should reach as far as to include something like this.
Holding a copyright on your brand & product is one thing (and I believe should be upheld to prevent counterfeiting, etc), but being able to force people to pay a licensing fee because you spent the time to tell the patent office about some idea (that someone probably already had and very possibly wasn't selfish enough to patent it) is beyond me. Patents were originally conceived as a way to stimulate innovative thinking, but now we're seeing everything under the sun being patented without anything actually being done with them just so they can sue people later on if they happen to use that or a similar idea. Oh, great... a patent for a TV that can detect my mood... so apparently someone's job at Sony is to be high all day so they can come up with ideas for the company to own for whenever we get around to it being a good idea or even reasonably possible to make.
I'm of the mind that the developers should be able to design their game however they want, and not being able to do so because someone has different business ethics than you and is exploiting ideas for profit is fucked. We see this with Namco (I think?) owning the patent to playing a mini-game during a loading screen. So instead of everyone making loading screens bearable... we're stuck with Dragonball Z games where you catch little balls while every other game can do no more than play a video loop while loading unless they pay Namco for their absurd patent. Someone could have patented side-scrollers so Nintendo might have decided to avoid the legalities and made Super Mario Bros a tile-based game (sorry if I made you invision that... it would've totally sucked).
This extends beyond games though. We see the Swipe keyboard app on Android phones being included at the carrier/manufacturer level due to their licensing. This is screwing over Android phone customers since the smart phone that they bought has now back to being a feature phone w/ downloadable apps since they can't get the Swipe app via the Android Market like every other app. Swipe did that in the name of profit, and the people actually buying & using the phones come second to their profitability. Doing feature phone-esque deals is within their prerogative since that's the system Google/Android has set up & allows for, but it's their patents make it so no one can make an alternative that alleviates the whole my smart phone can't do that due to a licensing deal between 2 companies I can't influence that is inflicting an arbitrary limitation on something I paid them for.
Really, should the concept of owning an idea be relevant in a time that's being referred to as the information age (wikipedia)? I'm not saying ownership of ideas should be relinquished simply due to an unearned sense of entitlement, but rather the fact that it is no longer relevant to how things work with the worldwide adoption of software, always-on connectivity, and the fact that they're reaching a level of intricacies and minute details that renders the existing system pointless & easily exploitable. Instead of being a catalyst to innovative thinking... it's breeding corruption from those looking to exploit their way to more profit rather than working for it honestly. Maybe this is something that is sorted out in the courts when they determine if the plaintiff has a valid case or not... and maybe I'm missing some aspect of the system that vindicates it... but it seems like a ridiculous system to maintain for what it does/is being used for.