Apple: Trust us, we patent parts of Swift, and thus pieces of other programming languages, for your good


Analysis In recent years, Apple has patented various aspects of Swift in the United States, at least discreetly.

This is the programming language that the iPhone-slinging has opened in 2015 under the Apache 2.0 license with an Exception Library Exception.

In recent days, developers working with this language have highlighted on the Swift discussion forum the capture of intellectual property Cupertino. legal danger.

Here are two of the patents in question: 9,952,841 and 9,329,844.

Putting aside the problems associated with software patents – many developers, among others, believe that they should not exist – and ignoring the fact that many of the features mentioned in Apple's Swift patents (by example: the concatenation of options) are available in other programming languages, there is no concrete cause of alert.

The Apache 2.0 license grants users the right to use a code containing patents from any contributor, including Apple; these rights end when attempts are made to bring a patent infringement action against any entity conducting a Swift project. Better still, Apple has not sued anyone for infringing Swift patents, as far as The Register is aware.

At the same time, said Daniel Berlin, director of software engineering and open source attorney at Google, in a discussion on Hacker News, Apple's patent claims are "disturbing."

Google has reason to be wary given its deadly battle against Oracle over Java patents and patent rights – patent claims have been quickly settled, but the case of copyright persists and Google is trying to reverse the victory of Oracle to the US Supreme Court, which had previously been denied accept the case.


Google greatly appreciated Swift and made a considerable number of contributions to the code. The advertising giant has made Swift available to TensorFlow and has been trying for over a year to add Swift to the official compiler of its next operating system, Fuchsia. Apple and Google do not always hear, so it would be logical for Google to think about what could go wrong.

The Register asked Apple about its patent strategy, simply because we appreciate the ritual of sending and ignoring an email.

John McCall, a computer engineer at Apple, commented on the Swift forum earlier this month that the Apache license granted users the right to use any patent involved in the code provided.

"This grant is perpetual and irrevocable for all past contributions and for all current contributions," he wrote. "Apple could, in theory, publicly declare at any time that its future contributions would no longer be licensed under Apache, and then initiate patent infringement actions against any user of Swift code versions incorporating such future contributions."


Swift favored plans to settle next year: ABI stability arrives


But McCall says it would drive Swift away, which Apple does not intend to do.

Ted Kremenek, Head of Languages ​​and Time Execution at Apple, also added that Apple's patent lawsuit was defensive – a plausible claim considering the frequency with which patent applications are filed against Apple and Apple. Other technology companies.

"Any company that contributes to Swift intentionally concedes licenses for patents implicit in the project," he explained. "It's a business decision, and for Apple this decision is clear and deliberate: we want Swift to succeed and be widely used." The Apache 2 license provides some form of IP licensing as well as project protection. and therefore its users. "

That's it, Apple's patent strategy is focused on you: we patent for your protection.

A question left unanswered is a question asked by software developer Max Desiatov, who is wondering whether a third-party open source implementation of a Swift compiler or open source Swift-compatible language using patented features would be acceptable for Apple . ®