Has Tech-Companies Intellectual Property Gone Too Far?

Mike Halsey MVP
Jan 13, 2011
Updated • Dec 2, 2012
File Sharing, Internet

Sony have announced that they're suing the hackers who uncovered the security codes for the PlayStation 3, that the console uses to determine that software is genuine.  This means that anybody who has access to this code can use it in non-approved (and even pirated), software to get that to run happily on the console.

Microsoft are also taking Apple to court over the name "App Store" claiming that it's a generic term and they should be able to use it for the Windows Store should they want to.

These are two examples of the madness that's been going on in the last couple of days with tech companies and litigation.  Sony are effectively saying, "our product isn't secure enough and you're to blame for that, not us" and Microsoft, frankly, are perfectly correct in their assumption of generality.

Let's take the Microsoft / Apple case first.  There are a great many terms in the world that fall into this generalisation category.  UK technology firm Psion famously sued over the term "Netbook" a couple of years ago because they had released a computer previously with that name back in 1999.  They lost, and rightly so.  A netbook is a net enabled book-sized thing.

The fact that Apple have popularised the App Store concept means, as they can expect, that every other technology company will jump onto the bandwagon.  The company couldn't possibly claim to hold onto exclusive use of such a 'foggy' trademark name in such a broad market.  Not in the way they can with a specific product name such as iPod.

Apple on the other hand have sued other companies for using the letter i at the beginning of their product names.  This has even included products that were around for years before the first iPod appeared.  Is this right and should it be allowed?

This brings me back to Sony who are using their corporate size and money to push responsibility for their security problem onto a party of hackers, because hackers can be seen as an easy target.  The group responsible for the hack, fail0verflow, have said that "We have never condoned, supported, approved of or encouraged videogame piracy.  We have not published any encryption or signing keys. We have not published any Sony code, or code derived from Sony's code."

They also claim they only broke the code so that people could run their own legitimate code on the console if they wanted to.  But what is a crime?  Surely it would be a crime if they took Sony's code and used it in their own products.  Is simply finding out what Sony's code is a crime?  Many people would think not.

Now I'm not going to get into any guessing game over who is right or wrong as  fail0verflow will have to prove their claims but it still boils down to the fact that Sony's security simply wasn't good enough.  There is security in other products that's never been cracked and other companies have means of patching security holes as and when they appear.  Who's fault is this?  Is this the fault of a group of hackers?

The litigation situation with large technology companies is getting out of hand, especially when there are so many thousands of products on the market that are all so similiar to one another and that all do the same thing.  Xerox, if it wanted to, could probably take Microsoft, Apple and Linux to court for copying their first windowing GUI way back in the 1980's.  They'd definitely lose though because GUIs are now generic and everywhere, even on your phone.  Microsoft couldn't sue Apple or the Linux community either for using windows on their desktops because windows on a computer have now become a generic thing.  Such lawsuits would be laughable.

So come on guys, put your hands up and admit to your own problems and don't try to cling onto pointless patents anymore.


Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. Servarus said on January 16, 2011 at 11:49 am

    On the PS3 issue, I think it is within Sony’s rights. I mean after all this time now only now it was hacked, I’d say its quite an achievement if you were to compare with XBOX, NDS or PS2.

    The reason they say the want to use the key is well, quite amusing. You can say that, but if pirates get a hold of that, then many other company are going to lose more money. And could lead to deterioration of games. If they really want running Linux or whatever make a petition or some-sort. Though I do not know how effective it will be, but still, everything has two sides to it. Even though you intended to do something good with it, other people wouldn’t.

  2. milithruldur said on January 15, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    The comment above me doesn’t really speak much of credibility, especially if you consider the person thanked the wrong author. :-)

    Anyway, corporations think that they can do whatever they please because they have the resources for it. They would even go as far as doing things that really look absurd outside the box, and it makes one think that corporations must have been run by mindless automatons concerned only for its own welfare.

    I’m no economics major, nor an expert in politics, but there should be an oversight committee, where these corporations are members, that regulates their practices for fair-play and prevents abuse of legal avenues to deter competitors.

    Hopefully by then these corporations wouldn’t be too arrogant to the point that they become laughing stocks because of their whim.

    Thanks Mike.


  3. Crodol said on January 13, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    AGREE WITH YOU 100%!

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.