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The patent nightmare: How a genius once involved with Siri is walking away from it all

Siri is a big hit

An eye-opening piece on the high tech patents maelstrom , published by the New York Times, reveals how a genius involved with Siri is walking away from voice recognition.

There have been impressive technological advances over the last two decades. But says the article, a pall has descended: "the marketplace for new ideas has been corrupted by software patents used as destructive weapons."

In the smartphone industry alone, according to one analysis, as much as $20 billion was spent on patent litigation and patent purchases in the last two years — an amount equal to eight Mars rover missions.

Last year, for the first time, spending by Apple and Google on patent lawsuits and unusually big-dollar patent purchases exceeded spending on research and development of new products

At the heart of the article is Michael Phillips’ who for three decades, focused on writing software to allow computers to understand human speech. His technology was even integrated into Siri itself before the digital assistant was absorbed into the iPhone, says the Times .

But in 2008, Phillips’s company, Vlingo, was contacted by the larger voice recognition firm called Nuance, who told him, says the Times , that

he could sell his firm to them or be sued for patent infringements. When Phillips refused to sell, Nuance filed the first of six lawsuits. Phillip won one case but eventually sold to Nuance.

With a background at M.I.T. and Carnegie Mellon, the founder of Vlingo is widely acknowledged as one of the most innovative thinkers in computer speech.

In June, Mr. Phillips started work at his new employer, and former courtroom adversary, Nuance. But he spent much of the summer on vacation, recuperating from "six bruising years." says the Times .

And in September, he quit. He plans to leave voice recognition altogether, he has told friends, and find an industry with "less treacherous patent terrain."

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