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In Technology Wars, Using the Patent as a Sword -

Stashed in: Apple, Intellectual Property, Siri, startup

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Stabble, stabble.


The Siri story or something else?

This is crazy: "In the smartphone industry alone, according to a Stanford University analysis, as much as $20 billion was spent on patent litigation and patent purchases in the last two years — an amount equal to eight Mars rover missions. Last year, for the first time, spending by Apple and Google on patent lawsuits and unusually big-dollar patent purchases exceeded spending on research and development of new products, according to public filings."

Yes, I'd rather see that money spent on R&D too...

Did you read the article to the end? Vlingo guy:

That is the concern of people like Mr. Phillips, the voice recognition specialist and one-time Siri partner who founded Vlingo. “Start-ups are where progress occurs,” he said in an interview. “If you spend all your time in court, you can’t create much technology.”

In June, Mr. Phillips started work at his new employer, and former courtroom adversary, Nuance. Theoretically, his job was to help manage the companies’ integration and find new technological frontiers to explore. With a background at M.I.T. and Carnegie Mellon, he is widely acknowledged as one of the most innovative thinkers in computer speech.

But he spent much of the summer on vacation, recuperating from the last six bruising years. And in September, he quit. He plans to leave voice recognition altogether, he has told friends, and find an industry with less treacherous patent terrain.

Yes, that makes me sad, too. Kinda makes me want to give him a call and see what he has to say (maybe I will do that soon!)

Do you agree that voice recognition is a field where patents are hurting startups?

Oh yes, it's a big one. I've always wanted to create my own speech recognizer -- and so did Adam Cheyer with Siri, but both of our companies shyed away from doing so because of fear of litigation, which startups really can't afford. Dialogue management was a completely separate field, so we both went with the strategy of working with the existing speech recognizers out there.

And it was a frequent thing in our early (2005-2007) quests for funding -- can Nuance sue you out of business. We had to explain how our tech was something completely different that complimented the recognizer in order to move things forward.

Also, today, in a world where mobile apps tend towards free, we had to charge for VoiceDJ, and we'll likely have to charge for our next app, simply to cover the costs of licensing Nuance and paying for the server bills.

Consumer apps could easily have voice as an integral part of their UI, today. But it's hard to offer it at a price that consumers want (free), when there's no easy way to make a speech recognizer that doesn't step onto a patent landmine.

Mike's technology at Vlingo was a new speech recognition technique, so he faced more patent landmines than Siri and Speak With Me face.

It just seems like the incumbents (Apple, Google, Nuance) can make life very difficult for everyone else.

Which turns the patents from a system of protection into a system for waging war.

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