Open letter to Netflix
Sometime around 2000 I signed up for a netflix account. The convenience of DVDs via mail combined with your extremely wide selection of titles turned me into a huge proponent of your service. Little over a year later, I cancelled my subscription, not because I was unsatisfied, but rather because I was completely satisfied; I could not find any more movies to put in my queue. I had watched every movie I wanted to see. I was "caught up." However I always knew I would come back someday.
A few months ago, I bought my father a membership for fathers day. He loves it. As a result, I've been making notes of movies and TV shows that I want to see. All summer I've been looking forward to the Fall when I would have more time to watch movies. My wife has been making a list too. When September rolled around, it seemed like it was finally time to renew my membership. And then I found out about your lawsuit against Blockbuster.
When I was young, my father worked closely with the engineering department at his company, and even had a couple of patents filed under his name. On several occasions he explained to me what a patent was for and why it was important. Today, I still believe that patents are an important way of protecting the ideas of creative individuals. However, as a computer programmer I can clearly see that the filing of software and other disingenuous patents are unethical and damaging. Software patents have quickly evolved into a morass for intelectual property; they are a legal hedge-maze for failing companies to hide in, and for creative companies to blindly navigate.
Public awareness of tort patent litigation is quickly growing, and even more-so for the technologically enlightened crowd-- a large segment of your customer base. Your actions have certainly raised eyebrows and, like me, your customers will start wondering why such a sucessfull company is taking measures that seem so desperate. If you proceed with your lawsuit, not only will you disgrace yourself in the public eye, you will futher dampen the spark of creativity that causes internet commerce, and technology in general, to grow and thrive.
By filing a law suit based on your illegitimate patents, you are stepping into a circle to join the ranks of SCO, NTP, and TiVo. It is a circle that goes nowhere and produces nothing.
Let me then urge you to do the right thing: drop the law-suit against Blockbuster and concentrate on what you do best. You have a larger selection, you have a vastly superior web site for selecting titles, and you are the market leader with a loyal customer base. You should be proud. You should be continuing down the same path that has made you such a success. Innovate. Compete. Thrive. Succeed.
There is no doubt that Neflix is one of the true pioneers of the internet. But just because you blazed a trail does not mean others cannot follow in your footsteps, or for that matter, pass you and continue on. You are perfectly positioned to forge ahead and succeed in ways Blockbuster never dreamed. This lawsuit is nothing but a detriment to that potential.
Quite simply, if you do not desire to compete fairly in the marketplace, then you do not deserve my patronage.
Sincerely, a former Netflix customer.
p.s. As this is an open letter, any reply from you, regardless of content, will be posted publicly.