As absurd as it may sound, it turns out patents really can kill people. This is a first for me, but I found an appaling story about an abuse of the patent system that violates intellectual property rights, consumer rights, human rights, justice, and can lead to more deaths. Now you may be thinking just how could anyone or any organization achieve such a lofty level of evil. The way you do this is by getting an open source EMS (Emergency Medical Systems) completely dismantled after it had already been put into use and been proven to help save more lives.

Yes, that is right, a company used legal threats to shut down a FREE and Open Source software project that helped city emergency systems work more efficiently and help save lives. What is more appaling is the specific part of the system in question was a written document that listed questions that have links to related questions based on the selected response. It was a text document with hyperlinks. You know, those things that are the basis for the entire internet. The company that issued these threats is called “Priority Dispatch Corporation” and in their threat they simply said that it may violate one or more of their ten patents. They didn’t say which one, but when a group of programmers, working for free with no corporate backing at all, get threatened legally they don’t have a lot of options. So they closed up shop and deleted everything they had on it.

Now you might be thinking that this was probably a little dinky project that had no real impact on the community. Well you would be wrong. This software was put into use and people that found ways to improve upon it were able to easily do so and then contribute the improvements back to the community. This horrible abuse of the patent system has got to stop. I recommend everyone write to their senators and members of congress to voice your opinions on this matter. I would ask that this company be banned from supplying to any local, state, or federal agencies. I would also ask that they have any licenses pulled and to be investigated for anti-competitive practices and trying to run a monopoly. Then I would ask for government backing and funding of this open source project.

I am tired of seeing companies abuse patents and harm others just for their greed. It is time we take back the power from these greedy companies and stamp out those that would use the law to harm innocents.

Here are some related links…

Please write to your representatives and spread the word about these terrible abuses!



Updated: Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Thanks to the extensive legwork of commenter Andy, we now have a link to the Cards 911 files that Priority Dispatch Corporation tried to get destroyed. I want everyone to download a copy of these files and distribute them far and wide. Let us make sure that the information doesn’t die. Let us make sure that Priority Dispatch fails to suppress open source EMS.

The files:

Good Luck!

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5 Comments to “Patents Can Kill”

  1. Andy Mack says:

    Hey Pjerky,

    I’ve got the one link you probably want more than anything:

    And you wouldn’t believe how much Googling it took to find it…

  2. pjerky says:

    Thank you Andy, I am surprised you found the files. Looks like they missed a spot. Great work by the way! Just curious, how long did that take you to find?

    I will save a copy of them just in case and add the link to my post.

  3. Andy Mack says:

    It took maybe twenty minutes on Google to get an idea of what the folder and files might have been called and then finding one that still had the files (many SourceForge mirrors card911 folders but the files had been deleted). Persistence was the key.

    I really enjoy challinging myself to online hunts of this type. It’s fun to find the ‘impossible’ and supporting patent reform while doing it is a total plus. :)

  4. pjerky says:

    Nice, great work. It can be a bit thrilling to find information like this after a bit of hard work. I am glad you are helping support patent reform.

  5. Carl says:

    My thanks on the well written article that illustrates with such a simple case the problems with the US patent scope.

    Patents are part of the US Constitution in Article 1, Section 8 titled “Powers of Congress” which states: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;” but how Congress has passed laws that define the scope of these patents is now under much public criticized , including by myself.

    In case you were not aware, the European Union has a different view of the scope of what can be granted a patent which specifically excludes “rules and methods for performing mental acts”, so the 911 application would be legal in Europe.

    You can find more information about the Eurpoen Patent Convention at:

    Perhaps a solution is to run the 911 Cards application on servers in Europe with access over the Internet to the US.

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