from the so-much-for-special-relationships dept
Normally, we think of the US as the champion of patenting "anything under the sun that is made by man," while the UK is generally more reticent. So it's rather surprising to find the roles reversed in the following story about a new standard for the GPS navigation system:
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is weeks away from approving a controversial British patent that could force American consumers to pay more for GPS navigation devices and even affect the operations of the American military.
This is no ordinary patent spat -- it could have global consequences: according to the article quoted above, US officials are so incensed about this unsporting move that they might drop the interoperability plans altogether. What's ironic here is that the US was assuming that the new standard's technology formed a kind of commons -- available to all, but owned by no one -- and it was the UK that decided to enclose part of that commons using patents, a move which now risks destroying it for everyone.
The patent is one of dozens filed around the world by the British defense establishment asserting ownership of technology developed jointly by the United States and the European Union (EU). The patents lay claim to a signal structure crafted by American and European experts to make Europe’s still-emerging Galileo satellite navigation system interoperable with GPS and improve service for users of both systems.