Why did perennial litigant Rambus, Inc. settle with the European Commission?
Certainly the most watched standards-related legal conflict of the decade involves the participation of memory technology vendor Rambus, Inc. in a working group hosted by standards developer Joint Electron Device Engineering Council (JEDEC) in the early 1990s. The fame (or notoriety) of the conflict arises in part from the importance of the conduct at issue (did Rambus set a "patent trap" for implementers of the standard that emerged from the working group?), and in part from the seemingly endless string of law suits that resulted from that conduct some fifteen years ago.
Most of these suits were brought by Rambus against vendors that refused to pay royalties when they implemented the standard, but these suits almost always resulted in vigorous counterclaims against Rambus, brought by those same implementers. And investigations into Rambus's conduct were also brought by both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States, and by the European Commission in Europe. A separate string of cases related to alleged price fixing and other improper conduct by other vendors that participated in the same working group, which ended in record settlement amounts being paid by those vendors to the regulators.
If you haven't heard the words "smart grid" before, that's likely to change soon. That's especially so if you live in the U.S., where billions of dollars in incentive spending is pouring into making the smart grid a reality. As you might expect, since I'm talking about it here, the smart grid will rely on standards to become real. A whole lot of standards, in fact, and that's a problem
Those of you who are subscribers to my free standards eJournal Standards Today know that I've dedicated each of the last several issues to one of the many multi-billion dollar initiatives that the Obama Administration has launched that are heavily dependent on standards - which in many cases do not yet exist. Each initiative is also of great complexity, and will need to rely on a level of cooperation and collaboration that does not natively exist in the marketplace. That's certainly the case with the Smart Grid challenge, and that's what the latest issue of Standards Today is all about.
Throughout the 20th century, the U.S. electric power delivery infrastructure served our nation well,… This once state-of-the-art system brought a level of prosperity to the United States unmatched by any other nation in the world. But a 21st-century U.S. economy cannot be built on a 20th-century electric grid. A Vision for the Modern Grid, National Energy Technology Laboratory, for the DOE, March 2007
For decades utility companies and environmentalists alike have known that more dramatic and economical advances in energy policy could be achieved through energy conservation than by any other means. By utilizing techniques as simple as buying more efficient appliances and better insulating our homes we can lower our dependence on foreign oil, release fewer greenhouse gases, and savemoney as well, all at the same time. For almost as long, utilities have promoted the concept of “demand side management,” and sought to enlist the aid of consumers and businesses to shift electricity usage to low-demand times of the day, with the potential benefit of avoiding the need to build expensive new power plants.
I am an avid, lifelong, reader of newspapers in general, and of the New York Times in particular. And I'm a staunch believer in the essential role of an independent press in a modern democracy. I’m also the owner of a Web site that serves over a million page views a month, some of which display short extracts of news articles, with links back to the full text. On occasion those links lead back to stories appearing at the Web site of the Times.
So why am I trying to kill my beloved Times and its worthy brethren?
Before Linux.com went dark late last year, it was one of the most visited open source news aggregation and discussion sites. As you may recall, word got this March that the Linux Foundation had taken Linux.com over, and was committed to making it bigger, better and richer than before. Further to that goal, it set up "Ideaforge," to tap the developer and user communities to learn what they in an on-line resource to make the Linux ecosystem more successful and satisfying for all involved.
After months of effort behind the scenes, and some pretty impressive Web design, the Linux Foundation delivered on that promise last night. What you'll find there is something that's different from anything that's ever existed before - an interactive, growing, feature and content rich resource that can help you hone your skills, find a job, assemble a Linux-based system, and, of course, access the most up to date news, blogs and ideas about open source software in general, and Linux in particular. What it's all about can be summed up in just six words: For the community, by the community. And if you read this blog, that includes you.
It was an interesting trip, in all, providing a cascade of often starkly diverse images. How varied a range? On the natural grandeur list, I would add spectacular sunsets, wildernesses of soaring, broken redrock, and broad vistas of pristine desert.
And at the opposite end of the spectrum, I might begin with the sights that greeted me when I crossed the Colorado early in the trip, and threaded my way through the 27th Annual Laughlin River Run, a meet that draws over 40,000 leather-clad, mostly aging bikers to what Motorcycle-usa.com calls, “one of the more popular events on the West Coast rally scene, packing bikini contests, custom bike shows, demo rides, poker runs, freak shows and tattoo contests into four-days of 24/7 fun.” I can attest to the fact that it also packs in what is presumably one of the largest assemblages of multi-story, inflatable Jim Beam bottle and Budweiser can replicas to be found anywhere in one place.
The southwestern landscape hosts a variety of signature geologic forms, some of which have become iconic as the backdrops for countless western movies. If you should find yourself channel surfing late tonight, a single frame of a mesa, butte, spire or hoodoo will instantly lock you on to the genre, even before the dusty characters ride into view.
The desert rock garden is a less well known type, but it will be familiar to anyone who has spent any time knocking about the southwest, and around Arizona in particular. Unlike the angular, striated spires and hoodoos that erode out of sedimentary formations, rock gardens are more often volcanic in origin than not, usually granitic, and rounded in form, characteristically resembling enormous blowups of the sand dribbles that a child makes at the beach by allowing a slurry of water and sand to slip through her fingers.
Long-time readers will know that whenever I can, I disappear into the desert for as long as I can. Often, the opportunity arises to cadge a lift out west on the back of a business trip, and so it is that I write this in northwestern Arizona a couple days after spending a day in a conference room buried deep within the bowels of the raucus, random, blaring, unworldly nonsense that is otherwise known as the Mandalay Bay Casino and Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada.
Some of the nonsense worked to my favor, or at least amusement, as my $143.95 room was somehow traded up into a penthouse suite on the 62nd floor of the hotel – a suite that was bigger than the first floor of my admittedly small house, with 18 foot ceilings, a wall of glass behind motorized drapes, bar, living room, two bathrooms (one palatial), four flat screen TV sets (more than I have owned of any type in my entire life), and no coffee maker.
The service the lawyer renders is his professional knowledge and skill, but the commodity he sells is time — Reginald Heber Smith, inventor of the billable hour
Both reviled and ubiquitous, the billable hour is the roach of the legal world — Douglas McCollam, writing in the American Lawyer
Let's imagine that you would like to have your dilapidated, wood-sided house painted. The southern exposure is peeling, the soffits sport dark Rorschach patterns of mildew, and more than a few window sills have that uncomfortably punky feel to the touch that whispers "we're rotting — you must help us." You know that you can't put off facing the music any longer, and hope that the impact on your wallet will be no more painful than absolutely necessary.
So you do what any rational homeowner would — you get some referrals from people you trust, call the folks they recommend, and tell each of them that you'll be soliciting several bids. While you're at it, you also call the painter who, as luck would have it, had dropped a flyer in your mailbox that very afternoon.
Over the next week each housepainter stops by after work, walks around your house, scribbles a few notes, and promises to get back to you with a quote. Within a week, most of them actually do. Like any homeowner would, you select the cheapest, failing to note that it came from the painter you found through the flyer. Soon, the job is done, and he drops by to collect the agreed upon amount. Pleased, you pay him on the spot.
What a nice, logical system, especially for the buyer. You know just what you'll have to pay before you commit to pay it, and gain the benefit of competitive bidding as well. You'd be crazy to take on such a large financial commitment any other way, wouldn't you?
Any old standards hand forced to choose the single most disputed issue in standard setting over the past decade would likely respond with a deceivingly simple question: "What does it mean to be an 'open standard?'" A similar debate rages in the open source community between those that believe that some licenses (e.g., the BSD, MIT and Apache licenses) are "open enough," while others would respond with an emphatic Hell No! (or less printable words to similar effect).
That's not too surprising, because the question of what "open" means subsumes almost every other categorical question that information and communications technology (ICT) standards and open source folk are likely to disagree over, whether they be economic (should a vendor be able to be implement a standard free of charge, or in free and open source software (FOSS) licensed under a version of the General Public License (GPL)); systemic (are standards adopted by ISO/IEC JTC 1 "better" than those that are not); or procedural (must the economic and other terms upon which a necessary patent claim can be licensed be disclosed early in the development process)?
The reason why this background level of disagreement is relevant today is because the Obama Administration has pledged to use technology to bring an "unprecedented" level of transparency and interaction in governmentto the people. If that's going to happen, though, it means that the platforms that the new administration adopts to provide open government will have to be open as well. Which brings us at last to the question of just what, exactly, "open" should mean, when it comes to "open government."
Quote of the Day
“Patents can promote innovation, but a patent is not a license to engage in deception”
-FTC director of Bureau of Consumer Protection Jessica L. Rich, commenting on the first settlement with a patent "troll"
ZigBee Announces New Internet of Things Standard Kathleen Tracy SmartMeters November 26, 2014 - The ZigBee Alliance, has announced the unification of its wireless standards to a single standard named ZigBee 3.0, which will provide interoperability among the widest range of smart devices, providing consumers and businesses access to innovative products and services.
The new standard impacts tens of millions of devices already using ZigBee standards. The company reports that “all device types, commands, and functionality defined in current ZigBee PRO-based standards are available to developers in the new standard.”...A complete list of standards that have been merged to create ZigBee 3.0 can be viewed at www.ZigBee.org.... ...Full Story
Samsung, LG Forge IoT Standard Alliance to Lead Global Market BusinessKorea November 25, 2014 - The competition between IT companies at home and abroad for Internet of Things (IoT) standards to dominate the global market is swinging into high gear. In this environment, Samsung and LG Electronics have agreed to unify IoT standards. The deal is expected to become a bridgehead for local companies to set IoT standards.
According to industry sources and the Korea Association of Smart Homes (KASH) on Nov. 13, Samsung and LG have previously competed with each other to dominate the local IoT market using different standards. However, the two tech giants reached an agreement that they will unify IoT standards to commercialize them in the local market so that they can hold a dominant position in the global market. ....
Due to the agreement, after the latter half of next year it will be possible to develop and produce door locks, boilers, lamps, system air conditioners, gas valves, and automated meter reading systems in accordance with standards for wired smart homes. In addition, it will become easier to maintain and improve services.... ...Full Story
New USB standard unlocks 4K HD streaming BetaWired November 25, 2014 - New-USB-standard-unlocks-4K-HD-streamingThe next generation USB standard debuting next year will enable incredibly fast transfer speeds that could unlock 4K HD media streaming from smartphones to ultra high definition TV sets in teh future.
The new USB 3.1 standard, which will begin to be integrated into hardware by manufacturers by the end of 2015, increases transfer rates from the current USB 3.0 standard by double. What this means in real-world numbers is that the 4.8 Gbps connection – already rather respectable – will be replaced with a blazing fast 9.6 Gbps connection instead.
The secret is in the USB Type-C connector;... ...Full Story
Net neutrality looks doomed in Europe before it even gets started David Meyer Gigaom November 25, 2014 - Here come more leaks, and more reasons to suspect that the European Union is not going to get the hard-won net neutrality law it seemed likely to get just months ago.
After last week’s letter from new European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker to his commissioners, suggesting that former digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes’s “Telecom Package” will be pulled and started again as a “Digital Single Market Package”, digital rights group EDRi has published documents that appear to show the neutering of that legislative package’s net neutrality provisions... ...Full Story
VA Cybersecurity Woes Continue, 16 Consecutive Audit Fails Elizabeth Snell HealthIT Security November 24, 2014 - For the 16th consecutive year, the Department of Veterans Affairs failed its annual cybersecurity audit. The investigation sought to find out if the agency was in compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act, (FISMA)....[the] auditors did tell VA leaders that noticeable progress had been made from the year before. In 2013, the IG found 6,000 specific cybersecurity vulnerabilities and made 35 separate recommendations to close weaknesses. This year, the IG said the list of vulnerabilities had been cut by 21 percent.... ...Full Story
Too many IoT standards, or too few? Richard Quinnell EDN Network November 20, 2014 - Interoperability and the easy exchange of data is a major concern in the buildup of the Internet of Things (IoT). To ensure those attributes, a set of commonly accepted standards will be needed. So, do we need to create those standards, or do we already have enough standards and simply need to pick and choose?...it may...be that there are enough standards already out there and what is needed is agreement on which set of standards are to be followed for the IoT. It is equally likely that a different set of standards will be in play for different use cases of the IoT, with applications such as industrial machinery using one set while telemedicine uses a different set. After all, if different types of applications have no need to share their data, then there is no reason to saddle them both with the same set of standards.... ...Full Story
State Council Pledges Support for Development of Cloud Computing USITO.org Weekly November 20, 2014 - On November 15, China's State Council pledged to accelerate efforts to develop cloud computing innovation as a means of stimulating development of China's information industry.
According to an official State Council statement...China will actively support the integrated development of cloud computing, the Internet of Things and mobile internet. China will also promote online research and design in the education and health care sectors, stimulate innovation in intelligent manufacturing based on cloud computing, and deploy pilot applications to enhance disease prevention, disaster mitigation, social security and e-government.
The statement also indicated that China would support core technological R&D necessary to enable these innovations, and allow the market to play a greater role in pricing information technology products and services. ...Full Story
Interview with OpenStand Advocate Tim Berners-Lee: The Internet Turns 25 OpenStand November 19, 2014 - From the beginning, the Internet was built on a set of open development principles, that are now recognized as the OpenStand Principles. As the Internet turns 25 this year, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, sat down to reflect back on the first days of its existence. In the below video, he discusses how far web information has come, and how much more ground there is left to cover.... ...Full Story
Launching in 2015: A Certificate Authority to Encrypt the Entire Web Electronic Frontier Foundation November 18, 2014 - Today EFF is pleased to announce Let’s Encrypt, a new certificate authority (CA) initiative that we have put together with Mozilla, Cisco, Akamai, Identrust, and researchers at the University of Michigan that aims to clear the remaining roadblocks to transition the Web from HTTP to HTTPS.
Although the HTTP protocol has been hugely successful, it is inherently insecure. Whenever you use an HTTP website, you are always vulnerable to problems, including account hijacking and identity theft; surveillance and tracking by governments, companies, and both in concert; injection of malicious scripts into pages; and censorship that targets specific keywords or specific pages on sites. The HTTPS protocol, though it is not yet flawless, is a vast improvement on all of these fronts, and we need to move to a future where every website is HTTPS by default.With a launch scheduled for summer 2015, the Let’s Encrypt CA will automatically issue and manage free certificates for any website that needs them. Switching a webserver from HTTP to HTTPS with this CA will be as easy as issuing one command, or clicking one button....The Let’s Encrypt CA will be operated by a new non-profit organization called the Internet Security Research Group (ISRG). EFF helped to put together this initiative with Mozilla and the University of Michigan, and it has been joined for launch by partners including Cisco, Akamai, and Identrust. ...Full Story
Experts Predict Major Cyber Attack by 2025, According to Pew The Open Standard November 18, 2014 - The Pew Research Internet Project asked, and cyber security experts answered.
The iconic think tank has collected and parsed experts’ thoughts on the possibility of a “major cyber attack” by 2025 — and 61 percent of the 1,642 professionals interviewed said one would occur.
“By 2025, will a major cyber attack have caused widespread harm to a nation’s security and capacity to defend itself and its people?”
Pew asked: “By 2025, will a major cyber attack have caused widespread harm to a nation’s security and capacity to defend itself and its people?” The think tank defined “widespread harm” as “significant loss of life or property losses/damage/theft at the levels of tens of billions of dollars.”... ...Full Story