by Mike Masnick
Thu, Sep 17th 2009 12:27am
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Aug 21st 2009 6:51pm
from the there-goes-that-idea dept
The clean tech market has been an interesting one to watch, because it certainly has not needed patents to keep people interested. Lots of companies have been jumping into the market, realizing that the world needs better energy solutions, and recognizing that those who successfully crack that nut won't have to worry about patents, but about being able to actually serve the demand. But, those who look at innovation entirely through the spectrum of patents would like to paint a different picture. Reader bretton points out that a recent document sent around by a big law firm is pushing the idea that patents will be essential for "fostering innovation" in clean tech (pdf). Of course, studies (and history) have shown exactly the opposite... but, of course, more patents would be good for the law firm and its business.
At almost the same time as that link was sent over, Michael Koch alerted us to a discussion of how some big companies are suddenly very interested in patents on clean tech. It notes that, prior to this year, there was very little interest in the clean tech community for patents or patent issues, but as the new administration talked up the importance of working together and sharing information (even across borders) to further the goal of actual innovation (rather than the hoarding of ideas), suddenly the US Chamber of Commerce unleashed its lobbying muscle to demand that patents be a big part of this:
However, this situation changed dramatically in the spring and summer of 2009 with the advent of the Obama administration making public statements about sharing technology related to energy. In reaction, the United States Chamber of Commerce, a leading lobby representing businesses, is expressing growing concern that moves to spread new energy technologies to developing countries could erode the IP rights that have driven commercial efforts to innovate for generations.Such an effort could certainly help advance some of the important scientific research and innovation in clean tech issues... but of course, this new lobby is having none of it:
Late in May 2009, the group and representatives of General Electric, Microsoft and Sunrise Solar gathered in Washington to launch the Innovation, Development & Employment Alliance, or I.D.E.A. The initiative is aimed at pressing Congress and the Obama administration to ensure that global climate-treaty talks do not weaken protections on who can profit from new technologies that provide abundant energy without abundant pollution. The creation of I.D.E.A. has been widely noted, with some alarm, in the IP "watchers" community, and likely means the status of alternative energy as a less-observed IP sector is finished for good....
The new Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize winner, has publicly supported collaborating with developing countries - in particular China - and sharing all IP rights of the resulting technologies. He has already pushed forward with a new U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center, developed with $15 million dollars each from the U.S. and Chinese governments, and designed to create innovative technologies for building energy efficiency, clean coal (including carbon capture and storage) and clean vehicles. In addition, Secretary Chu is advocating for the development of open-source building energy-efficiency software that will make it cheaper and easier for developers to implement energy saving measures in new buildings, both in the U.S. and in emerging economies like China and India.
In reaction, I.D.E.A.'s first act was to back the Larsen-Kirk Amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act (H.R. 2410). The amendment calls on the President, the Secretary of State and the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations to uphold the existing international legal requirements for IP rights and avoid any weakening of them for the UNFCCC in the context of energy and environmental technology. The Amendment passed the House with a 432-0 vote. It was described as an amendment to protect U.S. green jobs and U.S. technology innovation.Of course, the reality is exactly the opposite. If we don't make the necessary innovation breakthroughs then there won't be that many US green jobs at all. It's stunning in this day and age that politicians can still be convinced that such protectionist policies protect jobs rather than limit them. Getting serious innovation in the clean tech market will create tremendous job opportunities. Focusing on who gets to own the patents (and blocking foreign collaboration) at this stage only delays the ability for the US to create those jobs and to move to better energy options.
What a shame.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jul 31st 2009 3:45am
from the this-is-going-to-get-messy dept
There are a few interesting asides to all of this. First, it reminds me of how Zennstrom and Friis ended up in another lawsuit a few years back, also involving questions about licensing the core underlying technology of Skype. There's a lot of background here, and not all the details are clear (at all), but that original case involved the claim that Zennstrom and Friis used the same core underlying technology that they used to build Kazaa to build Skype. Way back, Zennstrom and Friis had created two operations: Kazaa and FastTrack, which created the underlying tech used in Kazaa. However, they also licensed FastTrack to a company called Streamcast, that made a product called Morpheus that competed with Kazaa in the file sharing space. Got that?
The folks at Streamcast insist that part of their contract with FastTrack was that they had a right of first refusal on buying the underlying technology. But then, all sorts of stuff happened, with Kazaa being sold off to a group in the South Pacific, but Zennstrom and Friis supposedly retaining some core technology which (Streamcast claims) they used to build Skype. Then, once Skype sold, Streamcast claimed that the whole thing was an elaborate shell game, but in selling the Skype underlying technology, Streamcast claimed that Zennstrom and Friis violated their agreement on having a right of first refusal on purchasing the technology.
Yet, now I'm left wondering if that original claim was true. If the current claim is that Joltid still "owns" the original technology and Skype/eBay only licensed it, then the technology itself might never have actually been sold (unless, we're talking about two separate core underlying technologies... which is possible).
Still... the bigger question? How the hell did eBay make a deal and not make sure it had either purchased (entirely) the core underlying technology or had a guaranteed perpetual license that couldn't be revoked? The eBay Skype purchase was bad enough already. Could it be even more ridiculous in that eBay didn't even properly purchase the technology in question? It seems preposterous to believe that a company could screw up an acquisition that monumentally, so you have to wonder if it's actually true.
In the meantime, since there are questions about how eBay can rebuild Skype's underlying core technology without violating the many patents in the space, it makes you wonder if eBay may be forced to simply buy someone else's technology. Maybe it's time to call up the Gizmo Project (which has built a very Skype-like product) to see what they're up to these days. Though, can you imagine eBay needing to buy another company just to power Skype so it can be spun off again? Yikes!
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jul 16th 2009 5:15am
from the fighting-IPRED dept
from the wanna-bet-who-snuck-those-provisions-in-there? dept
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Feb 10th 2009 7:09pm
from the teaming-up dept
from the just-as-bad-as-pirates,-apparently dept
Of course, rather than take this as a sign that maybe their views are too aggressively pro-IP, they instead want to blame anyone who is pointing out the dangers of being so aggressively pro-IP. The article quotes US Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue, saying that US IP cops can't just focus on pirates and counterfeiters, but need to start worrying about those of us crazy enough to point out the dangers and downsides of aggressively pro-IP policies:
"[There is a] second threat [from] a growing movement of anti-IP activists drawn from universities, foundations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), ideologically driven interest groups, and even governments."You see, we're not a part of the debate and the conversation -- perhaps showing how their strong belief in stronger IP is dangerous -- but we're a "threat" that needs to be dealt with. Nice to know that the US's worldwide IP enforcers have such open minds.