Feb, 23 2010

You may already be aware of this but just in case you’re not, well.. I’ll tell you – and then let you vote on the issue.  In short, the much loved app City Caller ID by Christopher Chenoweth has been removed to avoid a lawsuit.  If you were to try to update it now, you would see this:

callerid

Would you like the long version? Ok!

So, the other day I went to update my City Caller ID app, as I saw there was one available,  and what did I see? Why, a notice from the author informing folks that he was being sued by Cequint. There was a link to his blog for more details.  In addition – a fair number of comments from upset users showing their support.

Naturally I grabbed some snacks and a drink, and traveled all the way across the internet to get the full scoop over on his website.  There was a article posted – with Android users leaving feedback showing their support – that gave all the juicy details.  Cequint, as far as I could tell, had gone straight for the jugular.  No cease and desist letter was spoke of  just a straight “prepare to go to trial” suit.  Chris went on to explain his situation and had a link up for donations to fight it.   I understand he got a few, too.

It turns out Cequint holds a couple patents on the method and equipment used to retrieve and display caller ID information.  Included in said patents you will find wording such as:

“While the invention has been described in accordance with what is presently considered to be the most practical and preferred embodiment, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited to the disclosed embodiment, but on the contrary, is intended to cover various modificaitons and equivalent arrangements included within the spirit and scope of the appended claims.”

and…

“The receiving device is a CDMA receiver for mobile cellular service and is decoded fro, the cellular data packet by a host microcontroller.”

Now I’m no lawyer – that’s for sure – but I read (eh.. seriously skimmed) the documents and to the best of my understanding it seems to me that the app does in fact infringe.  So I would say Cequint had every right to defend their patent. Nevertheless, I was saddened.

That was Saturday. As of now the article’s contents have since been completely edited out – all comments removed – and replaced with this.

“Hello Everyone,

I don’t have the time or money to license this technology and use it from Cequint.

Cenquint’s technology is called City ID – http://www.cequint.com

Anyone who donated will receive their money back immediately.

Thank you to everyone for your support!

Chris”

It would appear Chris has agreed to remove the application to settle things.

So where does this leave us? Well. Don’t worry Cequint –  I’m not going to suggest the 200k+ Android users that have it backup the app with their favorite backup utilities or tell them *not* to apply the update in the market if they want to keep it.  All I’m going to say is this leaves us without what many considered to be the best of the free Caller ID apps out there – and that if we had a fair amount of users saying they would donate to the author to license it (even if he then had to change to a pay app).. or even fight it.. we’d suggest he set up a chipin we could link to.

This isn’t the first time Cequint has had to flex the ‘ol bicep, either. I did a little searching around and it appears they’ve done battle over this a few times. Including having a Blackberry app pulled in a situation very much like this one.

At any rate – what could this mean for the Android Market and our open source philosophy? Are infringements going to prove to be a big issue as small time developers continue to create apps to meet people’s needs?

“Or what about those ludicrous business-process patents, like Amazon.com’s “one-click” patent or the “name-your-price” auction patent assigned to Priceline.com? Instead of stimulating innovation, such patents seem more about extracting “rents” from innocent bystanders going about their business. One thing has become clear since business-process patents took off in America during the 1990s: the quality of patents has deteriorated markedly. And with sloppier patenting standards, litigation has increased. The result is higher transaction costs all round.”  …Read More

and more

To our readers that have City Caller ID: What are your thoughts?  There were a huge number of comments between the market and his blog of people basically saying “this is bs, fight it!” – but a patent is a patent, right? It seems pretty straight forward to me. Anyone more legal-minded than me able to read those documents and come up with something more supporting to the author?

[ Cequint | Chris Chenoweth | techdirt | The Economist ]