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posted by janrinok on Tuesday September 08 2015, @11:08PM   Printer-friendly
from the when-the-system-doesn't-work dept.

Iron Speed, a firm which provided a rapid application development tool for creating .NET apps, is shuttering itself thanks to "litigation with a patent troll", according to a letter sent to customers by co-founder and chairman Alan Fisher.

The Iron Speed designer enabled developers to create applications for web, cloud and mobile using a point-and-click interface. Customers include AT&T, Cisco, DHL, Disney, HP and the US Army, according to the company's website. Yet all this is no more, writes Fisher:

There are several reasons for this, one of which has been the ongoing expense of litigation with a patent troll who has challenged our intellectual property. While we feel this is baseless, patent litigation is generally a multi-million dollar exercise. This has put a drain on our resources we can no longer afford, and coupled with excessive cracked key use and license sharing, our product sales have been severely impaired.

We will continue offering Technical Support through December 31 2015, but it is unlikely that there will be future software releases.

Because we are unable to issue any refunds, any customer with current software update or technical support subscriptions has been issued an additional perpetual license in his account.

A thread on the Iron Speed forums confirms the situation and provides more details.

The patent issue seems related to the way the Iron Speed designer generates applications automatically based on a database schema, removing much of the gruntwork in building applications that are essentially forms over data.

Microsoft has its own tool which does this, called LightSwitch, but this has not been updated much in the latest edition of Visual Studio, causing developers to doubt its future. Another issue with LightSwitch is its reliance on the deprecated Silverlight for desktop applications, though it can also generate HTML and JavaScript.


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  • (Score: 2) by Tramii on Tuesday September 08 2015, @11:31PM

    by Tramii (920) on Tuesday September 08 2015, @11:31PM (#234000)

    Guys, I can assure you that Designer licenses you purchased will continue to work for years to come. Also there is no plans to release it as an open source and licensing policy is still enforced. After all it would be unfair to those who paid money for the license to give the tool for free.

    If I had just paid thousands of dollars to license this product, I would definitely be upset. But I don't see how releasing it as Open Source would be a bad thing. I mean, the money is already gone and you have two options:

    1) Release the product as OS and let the software live on. You can expect future patches and maybe even new features. Later, you will grumble about all those other people getting it for "free".
    or
    2) Let the product die and be forced to migrate to something else. But at least you prevented anyone else from getting a copy without paying for it! Um, except with the company being dead pirated copies will abound and people will will get it for "free" anyways.

    So, uh, no it would *not* be unfair. In fact, I would think it would be unfair to *not* give your paying customers the source code.

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  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 08 2015, @11:34PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 08 2015, @11:34PM (#234002)

    Considering its technically tied up in litigation, i doubt they could do that now. While the patent is clearly false, until its struck down it still stands and in theory ISD doesn't own the rights to the code anymore so they cant 'give it away'.

    I wonder who will be next.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by deimtee on Wednesday September 09 2015, @01:13AM

      by deimtee (3272) on Wednesday September 09 2015, @01:13AM (#234024) Journal

      As I understand it, copyright gives you the right to control copies. Patents give you the right to control the manufacture of an invention.
      Releasing the source code is not manufacturing things. In fact it could be argued that it is equivalent to publishing information about the patent, which is certainly legal, as they are public documents.

      --
      No problem is insoluble, but at Ksp = 2.943×10−25 Mercury Sulphide comes close.
    • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Wednesday September 09 2015, @01:53AM

      by Grishnakh (2831) on Wednesday September 09 2015, @01:53AM (#234034)

      BS; they absolutely own the rights to the code. You can write code that implements any kind of clearly and uncontestedly patented algorithm, and that code is *yours* (you own the copyright). However, if you try to sell the code, you have to pay license fees to the patent holder.

      Patents and copyrights are two different things.

      This company can absolutely open-source their code if they choose, just like LAME's source code has been available for ages. People using that code have to pay a license fee to be legal, however (just like, prior to the expiration of the MP3 patents, LAME users needed to pay a license fee to compile and use the code). Good luck going after the users for license fees though. Open-sourcing the code is exactly what this company should do after they shut down, just to stick it to the patent troll.

      • (Score: 2) by Nerdfest on Wednesday September 09 2015, @02:01AM

        by Nerdfest (80) on Wednesday September 09 2015, @02:01AM (#234039)

        I was under the impression that you weren't allowed to create your own implementation of something that was patented, even for personal use. I could be wrong of course.

        • (Score: 2) by hemocyanin on Wednesday September 09 2015, @02:35AM

          by hemocyanin (186) on Wednesday September 09 2015, @02:35AM (#234047) Journal

          My understanding comports with yours from a strictly legal perspective: it is illegal to make something for personal use that is patented by another.

          From a strictly practical perspective, it is generally not cost effective for a company/troll/whatever to go after the individual person who makes something just for personal use and never even attempts to sell it. In that scenario, the infringer is very unlikely to experience negative consequences for a patent violation.

        • (Score: 2) by frojack on Wednesday September 09 2015, @04:47AM

          by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday September 09 2015, @04:47AM (#234085) Journal

          I was under the impression that you weren't allowed to create your own implementation of something that was patented, even for personal use. I could be wrong of course.

          You probably can't make your own copy of a patented device.

          However, software patents are all business practices patents in the US, and the matter being contested only covers one small part of the process:

          The patent issue seems related to the way the Iron Speed designer generates applications automatically based on a database schema, removing much of the gruntwork in building applications that are essentially forms over data.

          But that is a common functionality as others have pointed out. If you have to collect data to fill in your database, its not all that uncommon to generate the application to do so from the database itself. Hell, even Google Docs offers a fill in the form capability that operates on any spreadsheet you have. This is a generic abstract idea, and shouldn't be patentable.

          In this day and age, that kind of patent has been pretty much struck down. See Alice vs CLS Bank [wikipedia.org].

          This company's problem is 1) that everyone is pirating their software, 2) They are selling into a dieing market (.net) and 3) there were already players in that field. They can't afford to fight that fight.

          Because its a Windows based technology, nobody is going to rush to their defense, and Opensource licenses aren't the norm in the windows world.

          --
          No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by gman003 on Tuesday September 08 2015, @11:39PM

    by gman003 (4155) on Tuesday September 08 2015, @11:39PM (#234005)

    Time to use psychology for fun and profit:

    Give the code away to the licensees, and let them maintain it however they see fit. Which will probably be an open-source coalition, but by making it their choice, it's magically acceptable to them. And all it takes is one licensee to sublicense it as OSS, so the advantage is on that side.

    Plus, just giving the code will be seen as "doing right by your customers to the very end", which will be good for future business endeavors.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Jiro on Wednesday September 09 2015, @03:55AM

    by Jiro (3176) on Wednesday September 09 2015, @03:55AM (#234073)

    In order to open-source a program, you need to audit it. You need to remove anything that you don't have the rights to open-source because you used someone else's libraries or you used code under an agreement that doesn't give you the right to open-source. You need to sanitize the comments in case someone confessed in the comments to something that could bring you legal liability. You need to run everything by the lawyers (what if the code reveals some kind of violation that could not be easily proven just by examining the code's behavior? What if the comments contain text about something you're not legally allowed to talk about, such as explanations of why someone left the company, internal company documents, or just libel?)

    Doing this isn't free.

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by frojack on Wednesday September 09 2015, @04:23AM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday September 09 2015, @04:23AM (#234081) Journal

      On the other hand, most code that is opensourced after being written gets no where near a lawyer.

      Its just put out there, maybe after a cursory look by the original coders, probably after a GPL license statement is inserted.

      We've done this at my day job. We've open sourced previously proprietary software that we wrote from scratch.
      It literally involved copying in the new license statement in the comments, zipping the source along with a text copy of the license, and putting the whole thing on the company web site. Since we wrote it, we knew there was no patented code in it, and the subject matter couldn't''t be patented anyway. We were selling source licenses as well as compiled applications. Our source was already clean.

        There was never a lawyer.

      In the current case, they are complaining about patent litigation, but also "cracked key use and license sharing" (piracy).
      I rather suspect it was the latter that really drove them out of business.

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 09 2015, @06:10PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 09 2015, @06:10PM (#234327)

      Do you need to do any of that if your company is going bankrupt anyway?