back to article Apple: Trust us, we've patented parts of Swift, and thus chunks of other programming languages, for your own good

Apple has, over the past few years, quietly and successfully patented, in the US at least, various aspects of Swift. That's the programming language the iPhone-slinging biz open sourced in 2015 under the Apache 2.0 license with a Runtime Library Exception. In the past day or so, developers working with the language have …

  1. JohnFen Silver badge

    Daniel Belin is right

    "Daniel Berlin observed in a Hacker News discussion, the patent claims Apple has made are "worrying.""

    I agree. It's extremely worrying -- and ensures that I won't be using Swift until the patent expires.

    Apple may have a good record and good intentions. But the history of software patents makes it very clear that having good intentions is not reassuring. You never know what the future holds. Apple may change its mind, or may transfer the ownership of the patents to another company that is less well-intentioned.

    With patents (like contracts), the only thing that matters is their legal meaning. Intentions or how saintly the parties involved are mean nothing in the face of the written language.

    1. john.w

      Re: Daniel Belin is right

      Withdrawl Agreement?

    2. Jedipadawan

      Re: Daniel Belin is right

      >"Apple may have a good record and good intentions."

      They don't. Apple have a loooonnnnnggg history of suing everyone in sight.

      I was there when Apple were trying to patent the CONCEPT of a GUI!

      1. aks Bronze badge

        Re: Daniel Belin is right

        Which they "stole" from Xerox.

        Apple also forced software to be patentable (in the USA) and even look-and-feel.

        It all reminds me of the Java wars.

        1. gnasher729 Silver badge

          Re: Daniel Belin is right

          That comment alone - stealing from Xerox - makes it clear to anyone who’s been in the business a bit longer that you are a clueless troll.

        2. Someone Else Silver badge

          Re: Daniel Belin is right

          Rounded corners, anyone?

        3. VikiAi Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Daniel Belin is right

          "Stole" is a bit strong! They could certainly be accused of stealing popular credit for inventing it, but I'm pretty sure they had an open 'go ahead and use these ideas' from Xerox. That was sort of the point of Xerox inviting them (among others) over for a look-see in the first place.

          As to them trying to sue anyone for 'copying' the GUI concept from them, yes they very much deserved to be thoroughly trounced on that one, though!

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Daniel Belin is right

        The point I was trying to make is that whether they are saints or not (and they're not) is not an important factor in determining whether this (or any) patent is a good or bad thing.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Daniel Belin is right

      Refusing to use Swift is beside the point, if you read the patent (not the introduction which means nothing and is never taken into consideration) it could be used to clobber C++, Java, Rust, D, and any other object orientated language with a C-like syntax.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Daniel Belin is right

        Well, that's easy enough. Although I prefer C++, probably half of the programming that I professionally do is in just plain C anyway, so I would be fine sticking with that and avoiding all C-like OOP languages.

  2. jake Silver badge

    Trust Apple?

    No thank you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Trust Apple?

      Ditto for Google. Actually, I would trust Google less.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ignoring the fact of Prior Art ?

    "... ignoring the fact that many of the features mentioned in Apple's Swift patents (eg: options chaining) can be found in other programming languages, there's no concrete cause for alarm."

    1. Tomato42 Silver badge

      Re: ignoring the fact of Prior Art ?

      "ignoring the fact of Prior Art ? "

      ah, I see you're not familiar with the past not-work of the US Patent Office. Ignoring Prior Art is the raison d'être of the Patent Office

      1. Steve Evans

        Re: ignoring the fact of Prior Art ?

        The US patent office generally takes your fee and grants the patent.

        Prior art is left for the lawyers to sort out later.

        If you're small fry, and can't afford a lawyer, sorry, you're screwed.

        1. JMcL

          Re: ignoring the fact of Prior Art ?

          "The US patent office generally takes your fee and grants the patent.

          Prior art is left for the lawyers to sort out later.

          If you're small fry, and can't afford a lawyer, sorry, you're screwed."

          Just submitted a project proposal fur EU funding this week, and discovered on the patent search a whopping great broad patent claim has just been filled in the US asserting ownership of a bunch of IP which we already developed under a separate EU funded project 2 years ago. We looked at patents at the time, but decided there was no point as it was all software and mathematical methods

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: ignoring the fact of Prior Art ?

            Software isn't patentable in the EU. The courts decided that the existing copyright was enough for software.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: ignoring the fact of Prior Art ?

            > We looked at patents at the time, but decided there was no point as it was all software and mathematical methods

            Did this "we" also include your patent attorney? In that case there many more questions.

            Software and mathematics, as such, are not patentable under EPC, and also harder in the US than it used to. So the US patent is unlikely to make it in Europe but that still will cost you some freedom to operate in the US. So I am surprised your patent attorney did not recommend monitoring and possibly filing a third party observation or similar.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: ignoring the fact of Prior Art ?

          "Prior art is left for the lawyers to sort out later."

          Has anyone ever tried to sue the USPO for granting a patent where it's obvious there is prior art? Are they protected from being sued in some way? Is there something in their contract with the patent applicant that says due diligence is not part of the process?

          1. ratfox Silver badge

            Re: ignoring the fact of Prior Art ?

            You can of course have patents invalidated if you bring up prior art, and (probably) pay for various proceedings and lawyer fees.

            What more do you want? Damages? Ha ha, no.

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: ignoring the fact of Prior Art ?

              You can of course have patents invalidated if you bring up prior art

              Maybe. Mock patent trials have shown that juries often weigh first-to-file higher than first-to-invent ("newness") or obviousness. There's apparently widespread feeling among the US populace that ideas are "in the air", so to speak, and the bureaucratic procedure of filing a patent application is what really counts.

              I believe one of my prior posts has a link to the relevant reference; if not, search for something like "East Texas" "patent" "mock trial".

          2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: ignoring the fact of Prior Art ?

            It's complicated.

            Some considerations would be: To have standing, you probably need to show actual harm, for example that you're being sued for infringing the patent. And when the case is appealed out of district court (and if you win, it most certainly will be; any number of firms would take that on contingency), it goes to CAFC, which is notoriously fond of patent holders. (Unlike East Texas; that's largely a myth.1)

            1In 2008, East Texas ranked seventh in rate of plaintiff wins for patent disputes. In earlier years it arguably was more patent-friendly, though that's largely due to a number of "marginal factors" which make defending against infringement suits more expensive. Obviously that encourages defendants to settle, which is good for PAEs (trolls).

        3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: ignoring the fact of Prior Art ?

          The US patent office generally takes your fee and grants the patent.

          Bullshit. USPTO publishes annual statistics, and in general it grants around 50% of applications. That number has been creeping up, but slowly.

          Do five fucking seconds of research before posting.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: ignoring the fact of Prior Art ?

      The first thing I thought when I read the first patent is I used something similar in the 1980s for writing software, we had a project that was DCL, COBOL and C and a TPU editor environment that would chain compile the project and open the source code with errors and the error log split screen.

      The same with Visual Studio later on...

      1. qbix

        Re: ignoring the fact of Prior Art ?

        VMS?

        TPU was a powerful environment.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: ignoring the fact of Prior Art ?

          Yes, and yes it was powerful, although I found the EDT keypad layout more sensible. I had a macro that set the key layout to EDT when TPU started.

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: ignoring the fact of Prior Art ?

          TPU's autosave feature saved me from losing work many times when I had VAX-hosted programming assignments during my undergrad years. I typically worked from home over a 1200 bps async connection, and it wasn't particularly reliable - especially if one of my housemates picked up the phone in another room to make a call.

  4. Pointer2null

    booby trapped

    So if you build your products around or by using swift, then Apple can infringe any patents you own with impunity for if you take action against them what was free suddenly won't be...

    1. Phil Endecott Silver badge

      Re: booby trapped

      I think the idea of the Apache license wording is that that is only the case if Apple infringes a patent you hold that is for something in swift, not some arbitrary other subject.

      But this is a complex subject, so it may come down to who has the better lawyers.

      (Though fundamentally, if Apple sues you or me then they automatically have better lawyers and deeper pockets, so you might as well just roll over straight away.)

      As for swift: I’ll be sticking with C++ thanks.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Typo

    Optionals chaining not “options chaining”

    1. devTrail

      Re: Typo

      I don't know very much about Swift. But in Scala it is "Options chaining" since the "option" is the alternative branch for the nulls returned.

      BTW if we are really talking about the same thing it means that this is a case of patent piracy.

  6. devTrail

    Is it an attack on Rust?

    Maybe I misunderstood reading the abstracts of the two linked patents. But it seems they are preparing to attack Rust. Am I right?

    Actually after the bad publicity they got with the story of the bounce back patent Apple learned not to use them directly, usually after some time they pass their patent to small unknown companies and let them go on with the lawsuits, then the media will blame the unknown patent troll. So if the target is really Rust it will take few years before we can really see what's going on, but the it will be too late.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Is it an attack on Rust?

      I also read it as attacking Rust, and any other object orientated language derived from or with similar syntax to C. It's a huge software landgrab and Apple have lawyers with the GDP of small countries at their disposal to throw a spanner in the works of other languages or organisations for years.

      (But if it were Java/Oracle I'd have a hard time picking a side to support.)

      1. devTrail

        Re: Is it an attack on Rust?

        Actually I didn't think about it only for the idea of the OO language based on C. But because the main purpose of Rust is to extend C++ with memory safety and security enhancements which is the subject of the patents.

      2. Someone Else Silver badge

        Re: Is it an attack on Rust?

        I also read it as attacking Rust, and any other object orientated language derived from or with similar syntax to C.

        Hmmm. Might hat also include Objective-C? Apple eating its own children...film at 11.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Is it an attack on Rust?

      Maybe I misunderstood reading the abstracts of the two linked patents.

      Don't read the abstracts; legally they have no weight. Read the claims, particularly the primary claims. (Endeavor to remain awake.)

      I only skimmed the claims in the two patents linked in the article, but my sense is they boil down to "first pass separates C-syntax and non-C-syntax code segments, second pass takes those two partitions through appropriate language-specific compilers". Offhand I'm not thinking of prior art - obviously there are a lot of precompilers which translate a macro language or similar embedded in source TUs into the target language and then compile the intermediate output, but I can't name another instance of this "separate and do two things in parallel".

      Oh, wait - Knuth's WEB might be considered sufficiently similar. Of course, the rub there is "considered by whom?". Unless it's the jurors in your infringement suit, it Really Doesn't Matter.

      But it seems they are preparing to attack Rust.

      I strongly doubt that. Big corporations patent stuff with wild abandon, for defensive purposes and because patents are assets. Unless you're in business as a PAE (Patent Asserting Entity, aka patent holding company, aka troll), it's rarely useful to threaten anyone with an infringement suit.

      How would attacking Rust be of any use whatsoever to Apple? Other than Firefox (and forks) and Dropbox, what major projects is Rust used for? And while many people dislike Rust (the borrow checker is anathema to some programmers), it's also very popular - it keeps winning Most Loved Language in the Stackoverflow dev survey (admittedly by no means a methodologically sound study, but it's suggestive).

  7. EricM

    SUN once said the the same positive things about Java Patents and licensing structure

    and they promised to only use the Java patents defensively, because they wanted Java to be successful, etc.

    I even think they meant it at the time.

    But the simple point is: Patents are weapons aimed at certain technologies. Even if they are currently stowed in the basemant of a presumably well-meaning company. Once they get out of that basement, for whatever reason, they are ready to kill.

    And the SUN/Oracle debacle shows that hurting its own assets in the process does not stop everyone from trying to inflict damage on others...

    1. devTrail

      Re: SUN once said the the same positive things about Java Patents and licensing structure

      Sun case is different. They release Java with a mix of copyrights and different type of GPL non GPL licences. Actually Hotspot was a mess of open/non open modules. Sun said that they wanted to release Java free on the Server/Desktop, but they hoped to cash something on the mobile platform, so J2ME was less open. Google move cut their last source of funding and pushed them into bankruptcy.

      1. devTrail

        Re: SUN once said the the same positive things about Java Patents and licensing structure

        I can understand the thumbs down, but if people don't agree why don't they reply? Does anybody remember a different story? Who doesn't know history is doomed to repeat it.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: SUN once said the the same positive things about Java Patents and licensing structure

          > I can understand the thumbs down, but if people don't agree why don't they reply?

          You must be new here!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: SUN once said the the same positive things about Java Patents and licensing structure

          I think the problem is your last sentence; you're right about server/desktop versus mobile, but Sun was doomed long before Google got involved. Cheap X86 kit running Linux was one of the problems. I loved SPARC boxes - when they were competitive.

          As for the downvoters, I'm afraid it's like any voting. Though perhaps if everybody had to write a little essay on why they chose their MP for their vote to be counted, the results might be extremely interesting.

          1. devTrail

            Re: SUN once said the the same positive things about Java Patents and licensing structure

            I think the problem is your last sentence; you're right about server/desktop versus mobile, but Sun was doomed long before Google got involved.

            Thanks, at least there's some discussion going on.

            I agree on the fact that Sun was struggling and that SPARC machines were expensive. But they were still fighting to survive and I think that Google delivered the coup of grace.

          2. Alistair Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: SUN once said the the same positive things about Java Patents and licensing structure

            @Voyna:

            I suppose "Gives good head when going door to door"

            might not qualify in your voting exercise....

            1. VikiAi Silver badge
              Go

              Re: SUN once said the the same positive things about Java Patents and licensing structure

              I don't see why not! At least they are able to do *something* well, which puts them ahead of most candidates!

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: SUN once said the the same positive things about Java Patents and licensing structure

          >but if people don't agree why don't they reply?

          A lot of people here are completely caught up in their emotions, where pathos killed off logos. Thus they are unable to put their objections into words. It also means the messenger shall always be shot.

        4. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

          Re: SUN once said the the same positive things about Java Patents and licensing structure

          Downvotes typically mean people don't like what you say, even if they can't explain why you are supposedly wrong. Basically, it doesn't fit in with their simplified world view.

          Never pay any attention to them.

          1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

            Re: SUN once said the the same positive things about Java Patents and licensing structure

            Sometimes it's just not worth the effort trying to convince someone they're wrong.

            Or they don't want to be drawn into a flame war.

            Or you can't argue with stupid.

            Lot's of reasonable reasons to downvote without backing it up.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: SUN once said the the same positive things about Java Patents and licensing structure

              "Lot's of reasonable reasons to downvote without backing it up."

              One of my favorite's is improper use of apostrophe's. I alway's downvote for those kind's of thing's.

              1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

                Re: SUN once said the the same positive things about Java Patents and licensing structure

                Good one...

            2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

              Re: SUN once said the the same positive things about Java Patents and licensing structure

              I disagree, as people downvote just because they are lazy -not because they can find any valid counter arguments.

              As you'll notice, I haven't downvoted you merely because I disagree on a minor point.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: SUN once said the the same positive things about Java Patents and licensing structure

              >Sometimes it's just not worth the effort trying to convince someone they're wrong.

              And yet it is worth the effort to downvote? I get regularly downvoted for things I have 20 - 30 years professional experience in, as long as it does not fit the Brexit world view in here. And I never see any attempts to argue.

              This is a discussion forum. If people cannot be bothered to put in an effort they are in the wrong place.

              1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                Re: SUN once said the the same positive things about Java Patents and licensing structure

                Ooh, unnecessary reference to politics and attempt to police the discussion. So tempting. But I resist.

          2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

            Re: SUN once said the the same positive things about Java Patents and licensing structure

            "2 thumbs up & 9 thumbs down"

            Oh, the irony!

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: SUN once said the the same positive things about Java Patents and licensing structure

      "Even if they are currently stowed in the basemant of a presumably well-meaning company. Once they get out of that basement, for whatever reason, they are ready to kill."

      To say nothing of what can happen if the well-meaning company gets taken over. True, Apple might be too big for that to be feasible now but the future is terra incognita.

  8. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Another example of how broken the US software patent system is.

    1. Spamfast Bronze badge
      Unhappy

      Sadly not just software patents and not just the US Patent Office, although the US one is probably a worse offender that, say, the EU one.

      The number of patents that are granted where there is so much prior art or that are describing obvious solutions to problems is depressing - basically it's just lawyers generating work for other lawyers.

      Things like 'digital motors' spring to mind. Fsck right off!

      1. Tomato42 Silver badge

        EU has no patent office. There is a European Patent Office, but it's completely separate from the EU.

        1. Spamfast Bronze badge

          Apologies - slip of the pen but still lazy.

          Ironically, I have a European patent. (Subsequently also US and various other jurisdictions too.)

          Which brings me to another bugbear.

          I worked closely with a London patent lawyer to draft the application. I ended up suggesting rewrites and new sections and creating all the diagrams. (The word "embodiment" makes me wince now.) We emailed and phoned back-and-forth over a month or so while doing this.

          The submitted application ended up containing at least 60% of my wording lifted verbatim from my emails. A lot of the rest was boilerplate. We still got charged for him having written the whole thing of course. Because his firm claimed he had expertise in the area - which he clearly did not - this was an especially eye-watering sum. Thankfully my business partner had deep pockets - no way I could have afforded it!

          On the other hand, he did find a few existing patents/applications that might have represented prior art that we had missed in our searches but we had to be the ones to decide - correctly, it transpired - that these did not invalidate my innovativions.

          But then, I shouldn't have been surprised. A patent lawyer like a management consultant is defined as someone who borrows your watch and then charges to tell you what time it is.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            The hard part about a patent application is the claim set. Your patent lives or dies by the claims. And I sure hope those were not lifted verbatim from your emails, since that most likely would leave you with a narrow scope of protection.

            And there are many reasons for what may look arcane. In particular, there are extremely good reasons to discuss embodiments. In some jurisdictions you are obliged to disclose the preferred/best embodiment.

            As with any profession the client will have an opinion on the work depending on the conduct of the professional but is, strictly speaking, not able to determine the quality of work. That is why people can be happy with their doctor, even though he/she failed to see the illness that should have been discovered, or the lawyer drafted an agreement that failed to stand up in conflict. And it is when push comes to shove that you get to see the true quality. In case of medicine it can kill you. In my case, performing due diligence on patent portfolio I have surprised many clients with my analysis, showing that their claims did not cover what they wanted or needed.

            And that is why professions have governing bodies that maintains the ethical standards.

            So if you are unhappy with the job done you should discuss the matter with him/her and at least give a change to clarify before attacking their reputation. It is part of the job to work hard but without talking all the time how hard it is, the client wants results.

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              The hard part about a patent application is the claim set. Your patent lives or dies by the claims.

              Agreed. Partitioning them between primary and secondary claims is also very important.

              It's also necessary to know the culture of the patent office in each jurisdiction where you want to patent. You can get software patents in the UK, for example, but it really helps if you can word them to suggest the hardware that runs the software is critical.

              Patent lawyers are expensive, and sometimes it may seem like they're not doing much. The same is true for other sorts of lawyers, I suppose. But I for one am damned glad to have experts in the law, with a fairly rigorous set of professional-conduct rules, and advantages such as privilege, at hand when I need them. People who think lawyers are universally bad haven't spent enough time looking at the law.

  9. Spamfast Bronze badge
    Happy

    The Register asked Apple about its patent strategy, just because we enjoy the ritual of sending email and having it ignored.

    Made I larf, that did!

  10. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Can anyone decipher the patents?

    They both appear to consist of some "background" describing a fashionable combination of language features (although the language features themselves would all be recognisable to a computer scientist from the 70s, if not 60s) and the specific "claims" relating to the particular design of their compilation system (although the claims don't seem to go beyond sticking a few compilers together in a manner not unlike "make").

    The claims also do not mention Swift in particular and so are presumably asserted across any languages that either resemble C or have an object-oriented flavour. C++ and Java spring to mind immediately to mind as examples with both C-like and object-oriented-flavour. Good luck with that...

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Can anyone decipher the patents?

      My impression from skimming the claims:

      1. A programming language which includes C-compatible constructs, and other constructs which are not compatible with C.

      2. A first-stage compiler which splits a given source unit into the C and non-C code.

      3. A second stage which compiles the C and non-C in parallel, using appropriate sub-compilers.

      4. Linking the sucker back together, with certain restrictions on what the C code is allowed to do (in particular, not fuck with the stuff protected by the constructs of the non-C).

      Ho and hum.

  11. cschneid

    they all laughed...

    ...when I said, "Write it in COBOL."

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just use Python. You need nothing else.

    ^ see above.

    1. Simon Ward

      Re: Just use Python. You need nothing else.

      Cue whinges about 'meaningful whitespace' in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ....

      (I've only been a Python dev for 16 years and counting - what do I know?)

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: Just use Python. You need nothing else.

        The white space that looks OK in one editor that happens to show tabs and 4 spaces the same way but breaks your code, that sort of design feature?

        Not to mention the raft of v2/v3 changes that are still being found to subtly break things years later?

        Thinking here of the change in the way the divide operation is interpreted as the most dumb/annoying to spot, with v2 acting like classic languages (divide int/int and get int result) while v3 "helpfully" assumes you really wanted a float answer to an integer division, like you expected float out of integer add, or multiply, ....

        1. Someone Else Silver badge

          Re: Just use Python. You need nothing else.

          The only thing that can save Python going forward (after the abdication of the BDFL..or perhaps in spite of him) is ANSI/ISO standardization, using the C++ model for periodic updates.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just use Python. You need nothing else.

          "Not to mention the raft of v2/v3 changes that are still being found to subtly break things years later?" - oh come on... py2to3 does most of it for you. Just try being a C++ developer for a while.

      2. Irongut

        Re: Just use Python. You need nothing else.

        Since Python has gone PC now, dropping the terms master and slave, are you allowed to call it white space? Empty or blank space having syntactic meaning is just as bloody stupid.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Just use Python. You need nothing else.

          "empty" or "blank" implies stupidity.

          Please refrain from using such derogatory terms!

          1. Jedipadawan

            Re: Just use Python. You need nothing else.

            I was going to give a witty reply but I have just gone blank.

          2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Just use Python. You need nothing else.

            "empty" or "blank" implies stupidity

            "differently glyphed"

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just use Python. You need nothing else.

          White space seems perfectly OK - except that more and more developers seem to be using dark mode (like we had to in the 1970s/early 1980s) so it's often blackspace.

          Perhaps we could just rename it GRoSS - for Guido Rossum's Syntactic Separator - so future generations who detest it will know who to blame.

        3. livin' thing
          Happy

          Re: Just use Python. You need nothing else.

          The accepted Pythonic terms are 'pimp' and 'ho', or, in special cases 'Trump' and 'May'.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Just use Python. You need nothing else.

            'pimp' and 'ho', or, in special cases 'Trump' and 'May'

            Gotta say I don't really see Trump as running that relationship. He's absurdly easy to manipulate, within a fairly broad range of desired results.

      3. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Just use Python. You need nothing else.

        That meaningful whitespace has cost me more time than actual programming errors. It's the main reason that I despise Python.

        (Did that satisfy your desire to see whining?)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just use Python. You need nothing else.

          "That meaningful whitespace has cost me more time than actual programming errors" - really? Or did you just make that up. I don't think I've ever had an indent-related programming error with Python. Now asyncio - that's another box of worms to be sure.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Just use Python. You need nothing else.

            Yes, really. I didn't just make that up. The problem almost always comes in the form of tabs vs spaces, and is VERY hard to spot. I could be mistaken, of course -- but even if I am, whitespace issues have cost me at least as much time as programming errors.

            It would be helpful if the Python interpreter could call out that specific sort of error, but it can't (or at least, the ones that I use don't), so it just ends up being a mysterious failure.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just use Python. You need nothing else.

        "I've only been a Python dev for 16 years and counting" - are you enjoying asyncio? I come and go with it. Sometimes it's wonderful, but the internals look like the worst sort of hackery imaginable. Debugging it is horrible.

    2. TheGreatCabbage

      Re: Just use Python. You need nothing else.

      I like Python too, but after using Kotlin it's hard to go back. Python's functional programming syntax and features are especially bad compared to Kotlin.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Just use Python. You need nothing else.

      Lots of downvotes, but surely you get trolling points. Just look at them flock!

  13. ST Silver badge
    FAIL

    probably a misguided move against GCC and GPL

    Now that they patented Swift, GCC and the FSF won't touch it. That leaves Apple and Apple LLVM in complete control of Swift.

    They'll welcome free (as in $$$) contributions to Swift and LLVM from the Open Source LLVM community. But not a competing implementation.

    Not sure how interested GCC really was in a niche and marginal language such as Swift in the first place.

    Gotta love the Apple double-speak about we patented it for your protection. Yeah, right. Asserting patents has one, and only one purpose: to sue the crap - or threaten to sue the crap - out of anyone touching your turf.

    Defensive patents? Apple is famous for threatening everyone with patent lawsuits.

    Remember Sun's Looking Glass project? Yeah, long time ago. Sun abruptly canceled the project with no explanation. Rumor has it that Scott McNealy canceled it after receiving a phone call from Steve Jobs. The topic of said phone call was Looking Glass. I wonder what was discussed.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Remember Sun's Looking Glass project?

      I think Sun ran out of money.

      Compiz does stupid eye candy, but I suspect the windows near edge view spaced stack to pick a window might work as a compiz plugin.

      Apple:

      Yes, this is a good way to kill wider adoption of Swift and yet again shows USPTO isn't fit for purpose, unless that purpose is to raise revenue and insulate big companies with massive patent lawyer teams like Apple, IBM, MS, Oracle, Google etc.

    2. Jedipadawan

      Re: probably a misguided move against GCC and GPL

      Yes, Apple have serious form for suing everyone and everything over everything.

      And lately they have the subject of various lawsuits due to their criminal manufacturing processes with deliberately sabotaged laptops. From which they cannot see the irony.

    3. bazza Silver badge

      Re: probably a misguided move against GCC and GPL

      Now that they patented Swift, GCC and the FSF won't touch it. That leaves Apple and Apple LLVM in complete control of Swift.

      Er, Apple could modify GCC themselves and offer it up under the relevant GPL. That'd be a fairly clear indication of intent to the FSF. It'd be a pretty rum court case if Apple were to then sue someone for patent infringement, having made it even more publicly available than they already have and having made some fairly unambiguous statements of intent about the matter. It would be even more odd if they were to win it...

      The GCC project could of course reject such a contribution, but that'd be an interesting stand to take.

      1. ST Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: probably a misguided move against GCC and GPL

        > Er, Apple could modify GCC themselves and offer it up under the relevant GPL.

        They could, but they won't. Because Apple hates GPL.

        The main motivation behind LLVM was a non-GPL compiler with non-GPL runtime libraries.

        So, yeah, thanks for your input.

        1. DrXym Silver badge

          Re: probably a misguided move against GCC and GPL

          "The main motivation behind LLVM was a non-GPL compiler with non-GPL runtime libraries."

          In fairness, Clang + LLVM has become popular because it's a more modern toolchain than gcc and it shows in many scenarios. The C++ compiler produces WAY better and more meaningful errors (it's even used as a linter in some IDEs like QT). And LLVM is a JIT runtime as well as emitting machine code to a variety of backends and object formats.

  14. Jedipadawan

    Can't comment on the programming language but re: T. Swift... I prefer Hatsune Miku.

    Here she is live in concert with the song 'Ghost rule.'

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIMHFf84loU

    Her concerts sell out in 38 hours flat, BTW.

    Alas, I do not know by what programming language she was brought to life. For all I know it was Swift.

    1. Jedipadawan

      48 hours. I am too tired...

      Going for massage next.

    2. Mage Silver badge
      Windows

      Hatsune Miku

      I read about Hatsune Miku and I didn't understand. I'm obviously completely out of touch.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Hatsune Miku

        It's just the logical conclusion to the twentyish year fad of inventing a synthetic plastic pop diva to drunkenly mumble into auto-tune. Hopefully this means it has about run it's course and we can return to actual artists sounding like humans. Of course, you have to PAY humans, and the recording companies don't want any part of that ...

        1. Teiwaz Silver badge

          Re: Hatsune Miku

          Twenty - do you not remember Boney-M or Milli Vanilli??

          Vocaloid is a good tool for a certain type of angsty teen with budding music talent they might not otherwise discover.

          There's been quite a few that have gone on to real music careers (mostly Japanese though, Vocaloid never sounds quite the same in english).

          Possibly what gets used more is MMD for music videos.

        2. Jedipadawan

          Re: Hatsune Miku

          'Hate' to say this but Miku is over ten years strong and still going.

          Personally I prefer her to the mass of under dressed clones of Madonna who only sing about sex, sex, drugs, see, you kids wanna get into sex, more sex, did I mention sex, drugs, try drugs, sex and more sex.

          Tedious, predictable and corrupt record company controlled. So predictable, in fact, that I told my wife that the minute Miley Cyrus came of age she would drop 'Hanna Montana,' and become a lewd pop Idol trying to outdo Madonna. I knew it was coming.

          I was right on the money. The record industry has something of an agenda these days. Has for a long time.

          Miku is the fan drive pop idol who is generally isolated from the 'dark stuff' making her child friendly (there is an 'evil twin' called Zatsune Miku but she gets little attention) and the output of music is VAST and the range enormous... including Jazz which Western clones cannot compete with.

          I'm with Miku at least until the Western music industry reforms morally - at multiple levels - which I see no signs of happening. I will also accept that I like 'cute' but, having worked in tech, I know most techies do not so Miku is not going to be popular here and certainly not, generally speaking, among the British. But I now like in SE Asia where cute is valued and Miku counts!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missing the point

    The whole point of the US patent and copyright system was to build up the public domain of scientific discovery and creative works, "the progress of science and useful arts", by giving real live inventors and creators a way of feeding their families and paying the rent for "a limited time". The government's failure to reject applications that are clearly based on prior art is just one way that main goal of the system has been betrayed (another being Congress's continued extension of patent and copyright terms --given the pace of change in modern times those terms should probably be getting shorter instead of longer).

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Missing the point

      Yes, but that stopped being the actual purpose of the US patent system years ago. Which is a fundamental reason the entire system is broken.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Analysis

    TINLA

    IANYL

    US9952841B2: All claims in the international patent application were found to lack inventive step. An article on LLVM was found to bl closest prior art. Apple dropped bringing the application into the European Patent Office

    US9329844B2: Same as above.

    It seems, therefore, that Europeans are safe, and that both patents are shaky, and that the Chinese applications filed will face an uphill battle.

  17. Herby Silver badge

    "Prior Art"...

    The problem with the current system is that s far as the USPTO is concerned (I don't know about others), prior art is what THEY have seen before (i.e. issued patents).

    Until they get over this issue, it will be hard to reconcile the huge mess that is almost 10 million strong and counting.

    Sad, but true...

  18. J J Carter Silver badge
    Trollface

    A lawyer writes...

    All your apps are belong to us.

  19. Alan Johnson

    The point of patents is supposed to be to encourage innovation by rewarding invention and encouraging disclosure of inventions. The problem with how patents often work is exemplified by this one. Having read it I am stll unaware of :

    1. What the authors are claiming is novel.

    2. Any novelty or innovation except in the very specific details related to the specific application. Everything described seems commonplace and well known.

    Such patents restrict competition while providing no benefit to society at all.

  20. Milton Silver badge

    "features in Apple's Swift patents ... can be found in other programming languages"

    More detail, please. Notwithstanding the sheer impractical wrongness of patenting software, by what extraordinary reasoning can features in a new-ish language be patented if they already exist elsewhere?

    Even if USPTO's increasingly clueless examiners miss this, Apple itself would not have done: so, why?

  21. ThorstenF

    Not just in the US

    The second patent is also in the application process for all of Europe via WIPO. So they try getting a programming language patent in Europe. I wonder if one could also patent the English language now...

  22. Guilo

    Gearing up for visual wrapper for code?

  23. DrXym Silver badge

    These patents are gibberish

    What are they actually claiming which is novel and unique?

  24. Colin Wilson 2

    Patenting the P-System?

    I really like Swift - it's overtaken Delphi as my Favourite Language™

    But it does sound awfully like they're trying to patent the UCSD P System (!)

  25. bazza Silver badge

    Genuine Question

    Setting aside the (dubious?) rightness of software patents just for a moment, I do have a ponderable.

    Suppose a company did have a genuinely software patentable idea, and did want to give it away to all and sundry in a way that definitively did mean "no one can ever get sued ever for using this or derivative / cloned work". Patentable work ought to be patented by such a munificently minded company, if only to prevent some other more malignant organisation saying, "thank you very much, I'll have that" (especially as the whole prior art thing seems pointless these days so far as the granting of patents is concerned), or "I'll copy that, make some incompatible changes that wrest control away from the owners to the detriment of all" (e.g. MS with their "Java" back in the day).

    I simply don't know what ways there exist to achieve that aim to the satisfaction of all, without holding a patent, and without having some sort of threat of legal teeth to defend it. I suppose assigning the patent to the Swift organisation would be an improvement. I wonder if that comes with problems so far as bareing-teeth-when-required is concerned? What is a better way?

    (I'm not connected with Apple, Swift, Oracle, Google, MS, etc in anyway whatsoever).

    1. devTrail

      Re: Genuine Question

      Trouble is that you ask teeth for the small fishes and you get fangs for the sharks.

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Genuine Question

      Yes, the problem you cite is a very serious one. Unfortunately, "defensive" patents are things that are effectively unavailable to anyone but the very well-funded. If you can't defend your "defensive" patent -- which takes money -- then it's all but useless.

      The patent system has devolved to the point where it only provides benefits to large corporations and the very wealthy. It no longer performs the function that it was intended to perform.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Genuine Question

        Thanks for the replies :-)

        Trouble is that you ask teeth for the small fishes and you get fangs for the sharks.

        and

        Yes, the problem you cite is a very serious one. Unfortunately, "defensive" patents are things that are effectively unavailable to anyone but the very well-funded. If you can't defend your "defensive" patent -- which takes money -- then it's all but useless.

        So we're basically in the position where we have a well funded, well fanged shark that is promising not to use them, and we just have to hope that the shark doesn't get too hungry? Seems to me like there needs to be some political leadership / action on such a matter so that the patent system gets oh hang on, silly me.

    3. VikiAi Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Genuine Question

      I vaguely recall some archaic process via which you can, for a significantly reduced fee, register an idea with a patent authority without requesting an actual patent.

      Anyone know what this is called, assuming it still exists anywhere?

      1. VikiAi Silver badge

        Re: Genuine Question

        A quick poke-about on the 'net indicates what I am thinking of may have been the idea of filing a Provisional Patent, with no follow-up to turn it into an actual patent, leaving the 'art' in their database.

        "The Encyclopedia any Idiot can Edit" also describes Defensive Publication: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defensive_publication , though I don't think that would get you out of the need for eventually lawyering up in the modern patent offices' "throw it at the wall and see if it sticks" attitude to prior art.

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