Focus on Extortion

By Mike / On / In Technology

If we’re going to be successful in defending our industry from extortionists, we need to focus on extortion. If we spend our energy bickering with each other over our personal agendas, we will fail.

Apple is not a patent troll. Neither is Microsoft. Neither is PixFusion. Patent trolls, by definition, produce nothing but lawsuits. Using the legalized monopoly power of a patent against competitors is how the system is designed to work. Whether that system should exist at all is a separate issue. Whether this company or that company is being a dick is a separate issue.

We are going after one type of behavior: obtaining patents for the sole purpose of extracting licensing fees. That this is a burden to all technologists is something we should all be able to agree on, and is therefore something that we should all be able to work together to change.

If we start equating Apple to Intellectual Ventures, or if we try to eliminate software patents entirely, we are going to find ourselves up against the platform vendors, and we are going to lose. Save those battles for another day.

Appsterdam Legal Summit

By Mike / On / In Appsterdam

What would you ask a room full of patent attorneys?

Since announcing the Appsterdam Legal Defense Initiative, the response has been tremendous. From ideas to volunteers, from criticisms to donations, we’ve appreciated all of it. Now it’s time to make something of all this. To that end we’re getting App Makers together with a roomful of attorneys from around the world at the landmark Waag building on October 3-4. We’ll be discussing strategies, turning our vague notions into legal opinions, and answering questions.

We understand that if you’re not in the city you’re probably not going to fly out for this, especially since you’re already coming out here November 4-6 for the Appsterdam 2 Launch Party Weekend. Still, you’d like to get your questions answered, and you’d like them to be answered when you’re awake. Have no fear. We’ve considered the best way for everyone to get their questions answered, while preserving anonymity.

Just send us your questions. We’ll coalesce the things people want to know into one big anonymous blob. Then we’ll use that blob to produce content during the summit that will be available online at 10 a.m. California time, two hours per day, both days. We will make sure your questions are addressed.

At the Appsterdam Foundation, we ask ourselves, what do App Makers need? In the same way, your delegates at the legal summit are going to be asking themselves, what do App Makers need to defend themselves against patent extortion? If you have some thoughts on that, by all means, send them along.

You can use the signup form to get your question across. If you’ve already signed up, that’s OK. Or, you can email us. You can also tweet @optanthill or use the hashtag #anthill.

For ultimate win, come on over and join us in person.

Be the Anthill

By Mike / On / In Appsterdam

We’ve been mum since announcing the Appsterdam Legal Defense Initiative, busy organizing things behind the scenes. We’re now ready to start signing people up and accepting donations, which you can help us with by visiting the official Operation Anthill web site. You can connect to Operation Anthill on Facebook and Twitter, hashtag #anthill.

We’re organizing a legal summit in Appsterdam somewhere between October 3-15. We’re thinking 2 days, with a day of presentations and a day of workshops. I’m letting you know now so you can start clearing your schedule. I’ll give you the exact dates as soon as possible, so you can book travel.

Whether you’re being extorted with patents now, or are afraid for the future, this will be your chance to get the legal advice you need to protect your business.

For press or other inquiries, email

Method and Apparatus for Kicking Ass

By Mike / On / In Appsterdam

The past few weeks have been very dark indeed. Rovio and others targeted by new lawsuits, Craig Hockenberry predicting doom, and Matt Gemmell’s morale falling like Stonewall Jackson. The only thing keeping me from joining my colleagues in abject depression is working for an 11th hour rally.

Rally time starts now.

Intellectual Ventures and their ilk are many tentacled beasts who use thousands of shell companies to do their dirty work. When they send blood-sucking tentacles like Lodsys into our community, we need to cut them off.

Eventually the head will figure out to stop losing tentacles. Eventually the patent trolls will learn to avoid indies the way dogs in East Texas learn to avoid anthills.

Of course patent trolls are more likely to be from California than from Texas, so they might not know about the anthills. I actually spent part of my childhood in Texas, and learned the hard way that if you step on an anthill you’ll soon be covered in swarming, biting ants. You could, in theory, crush them one by one, but it’s much easier to just avoid anthills.

Let App Makers be as the ants of East Texas, minding their business until someone invades their anthill. Then Swarm! Swarm! Swarm! We will let the patent trolls know: if you attack one indie, you attack all indies, and we will file every motion we can against you, we will attack your patents, and we will show you for the mafioso thugs you are.

Our general in this fight is Michael McCoy, a Longhorn Texas technology attorney who is also conveniently licensed in California. We’ve been meeting in Amsterdam to hammer out a strategy and form a plan for immediate action.

When he returns to work next week, Michael will assemble and lead the Appsterdam Legal Defense Team, establish the Appsterdam Legal Defense Fund, and start implementing our strategy, codenamed Operation Anthill.

Legal action and education will be the start. We will also consider other ways of protecting ourselves, such as pushing for legislative reform. Of course, our enemies are both wealthier and better connected than we are, so will have to take our story to the people, let the public know that small businesses, jobs, and the economy are being threatened by parasites—and pray that democracy can still prevail.

We must move the fight away from the story that has been conceived by our enemies. This isn’t a patent infringement issue. There’s nothing most of the affected App Makers could have done to avoid being targeted. This is extortion, plain and simple, with the familiar twist of misappropriating the law to harass the very innovators patents are meant to protect.

NPR primed the pump of public awareness with the latest episode of This American Life, “When Patents Attack!” Ready or not, the time to act is now. I propose a tongue-in-check brown ribbon campaign to raise awareness. Brown? Obviously.

Software patents are bullshit.

Steve “Scottie” Scott and John Fox of iDTV recorded an interview with Michael McCoy and me, Mike Lee. (8:15 audio file, MP3 format). If you are a member of the media and would like a high quality copy for your broadcast, or would like to schedule an interview, please contact bmf at

Appsterdam Legal Defense Initiative home page:

For press or other inquiries, email