This week: A snapshot look at how the surge in infringement suits by patent-holding companies is causing big woes for small companies, and potentially affecting the ability of many people to engage in a popular pastime.
Creating and sharing images—drawings, paintings, photographs—are among the most ancient of human activities, and throughout history, technology that makes that sharing possible has been embraced as rapidly as it appears. Today, that technology takes the form of software applications for computers and cell phones.
That all helps explain why the collection of scrappy entrepreneurs who run small and medium-sized photo-sharing companies didn’t always think about patents as they built up their businesses.
But patents are certainly on their minds now that they’ve been sued for infringement by a company they've never heard of, in a place they've never thought about, in a case that illustrates how the surge in lawsuits by patent-holding companies isn’t just taking a bite out of big companies—it’s hitting small businesses too.
"You can't imagine the stress this caused, me thinking the company I put 10 years of effort into could have folded because of this," says Jeff Kelling, a partner in Texas-based software maker FotoTime.