I have never experienced the effect of our broken patent system so profoundly as I do now. Iron Speed, maker of Iron Speed Designer — the best code generator that I know of — has announced that it will be ceasing operations by end-of-year. The folks at Iron Speed cite a lawsuit by a patent troll who has been suing companies that are selling any kind of code generator that infers the application’s GUI from the database. The far-reaching patent, which is allegedly also the cause of the undoing of Microsoft LightSwitch can be seen here:
I have been using Iron Speed Designer for 10 years and I have been an MVP for Iron Speed for 7 of them. The field of code generators is sparsely populated with Iron Speed having been in the top seat since I began using their product. Combined with tools from the likes of Telerik and DevExpress, it allowed the web application development process to be greatly accelerated. The resulting ASP.NET code could be customized but much of the tedium involved in UI development and validation became automatic.
All indications are that the patent-holder has no product, just a patent on a concept that I cannot imagine was not preceded by prior art.
So where can we get another code generator? There is no point. It is a matter of time before they are all gone. The only viable alternative is for us to hand-roll our own ASP.NET MVC UI generator and to use it only internally to accelerate development, and that’s what we’ve begun. We are also working on software that will facilitate the generation of ASP.NET MVC pages from Iron Speed XML files – something that should help our customers move back to a supported platform with as little pain as possible.
Hopefully, in 11 or so years from now when this troll’s patent expires, someone will develop something that can save as much time as did Iron Speed Designer. It is so sad that the patent system — which was intended to spur innovation, often as in this case, ends up stifling it.