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Sunday, December 21 2014 @ 09:53 AM CST

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Open Data and Competitive Advantage

Standards and Society

Yesterday, the Deputy CTO of the US Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a press release highlighting the efforts (and success) of the Obama Administration in getting data compiled at public expense into the hands of the private sector for commercial repurposing.   The release refers to a McKinsey & Company report that estimates that making such data publicly available “can generate more than $3 trillion a year in additional value in seven key domains of the global economy, including education, transportation, and electricity.”

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NSA Blowback Spreads to Internet Governance Organizations

WSIS/Internet Governance

The Thousand Nights and a Night Translated and Annotated by Richard F. Burton - Courtesy WikiMedia CommonsThe unexpected disclosures of NSA activities by Edward Snowden presents a splendid example of U.S. government, as well as popular, indifference to world opinion. As part of its efforts to control the political damage of the embarrassing revelations, the Obama administration repeatedly stressed that only foreign nationals had been the targeted. As the breathtaking breadth of the data accessed and analyzed became clear, this rationale raised the question of how the foreign citizens - and even leaders - of U.S. allies might feel about being considered to be fair game for the NSA’s attention.

The answer to that question is that they weren’t happy.  Nor, as we will see, were a group of NGOs that had no reason to think they were targeted at all.

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FTC Will Require Patent Assertion Entities to Disclose Key Business Information

Intellectual property Rights

It’s hardly news that the Obama Administration is no friend of so-called “Patent Assertion Entities,” or PAEs.  Not only members of the administration, but the big man himself have spoken publicly against those companies that make a business model out of buying and asserting patents, as compared to universities and others that actually develop, and then license, new technology (sometimes referred to as “Non-Practicing Entities,” or NPEs).

Most of what little we know about the business strategies, licensing practices and economics of PAEs has been gleaned from disclosures made in the course of litigation.  Now the Federal Trade Commission has decided to gather some first-hand information on exactly how PAEs operate. And, because it is a regulatory agency, it can do so by asking the PAEs themselves to respond, and under oath, to boot.

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Groklaw, Domestic Surveillance and the True Measure of Risk

Monday Witness

U.S. Constitution, courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration and Wikimedia CommonsThis week, Pamela Jones announced that Groklaw would shut down – this time for good. The loss of this pillar of legal journalism provides an appropriate occasion for reexamining whether our commitment to the liberties upon which America was founded still holds true. And also to consider whether pragmatism in policy development has surrendered to illogical political expediency.

PJ’s final post (titled Forced Exposure) explains her decision, and is well worth your while to read. In brief, she has concluded that since she and her sources can no longer rely on the privacy of their communications, Groklaw can no longer function.  And so a site that has been repeatedly recognized for the contributions that it has made comes to an end after a decade of service.

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The Value of Open Standards

Intellectual property Rights

Two pan scale, Courtesy of Nikodem Nijaki and Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licenseYesterday I distributed the latest issue of Standards Today, my free eJournal of "News, Ideas and Analysis." While the central focus of Standards Today is (wait for it...) standards, I also cover a variety of other issues, just as I do at this blog. As usual, some of the articles in this latest issue appeared in earlier versions here at the Standards Blog, while others appear for the first time in this issue.

The theme of the latest issue is the value of open standards, a much debated topic with little actual data to work with. I'm pleased to include in this issue a guest article by two Dutch professors, who take to task a government-commissioned report that found little value in preferring open standards over proprietary alternatives. The authors not only found quite the opposite, but also propose a methodology for performing further analyses in the same area.

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FTC Finalizes Settlement in Google Motorola Mobility Case

Intellectual property Rights

The Federal Trade Commission today issued the Final Order in its action against Google involving that company’s assertion of certain “standards essential patents” (SEPs). Google gained control of the patents in question through its earlier acquisition of Motorola Mobility and asserted them against various mobile device vendors. Those parties cried foul, claiming that the terms that Google had demanded were inconsistent with the obligations assumed to license the SEPS on “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” (FRAND) terms to all implementers of the standards in question.

Google agreed to a settlement with the FTC this past January, following which the FTC released a draft settlement order for public comment.  The Final Order just released includes a variety of adjustments and changes resulting from the 25 comments received during the public comment period. The 34 page Final Order can be found here  and a seven page letter, sent to each commenter and explaining the changes made, is here.

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The Problem With Patents: Operating with Blunt Instruments

Intellectual property Rights

Hunderfossen troll, courtesy of Åsmund Ødegård, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licenseYesterday, the Obama administration announced a new effort to curb baseless patent lawsuits, which it believes are stifling innovation and economic activity.  The new initiative would take five actions under the President’s Executive authority, and also makes seven legislative recommendations intended, “to protect innovators from frivolous litigation and ensure the highest-quality patents in our system.”

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Thoughts on Open Innovation

Standards and Society

If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants
                                                 Sir Isaac Newton, 1676

H.F. Helmolt (ed.): History of the World. New York, 1901, Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at AustinIf the phrase “open innovation” has a familiar ring, that’s not surprising.  It’s not only a popular buzz phrase, but it has the type of virtuous ring to it that instinctively inspires a favorable reaction.  But like most simple phrases, it intrigues rather than enlightens. For example, is open innovation feasible in all areas of creative, commercial and scientific endeavor? If so, do the rules, challenges and rewards differ from discipline to discipline, and if it’s not universally feasible, why not?

A new free eBook of essays titled Thoughts on Open Innovation explores these issues, and more.

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Judge Robart’s Opinion in Motorola vs. Microsoft and the Future of FRAND

Intellectual property Rights

Dollar closeup, courtesy of Jon Sullivan and Wikimedia CommonsPerhaps the most important term in any standards organization’s Intellectual Property Policy (IPR) policy is the acronym “RAND,” standing for “reasonable and non-discriminatory” (in Europe, they add an “F” – for “fair” - at the front end, yielding “FRAND,” but the meaning is the same). Virtually every other term in such a policy will appear in one of many variations from policy to policy, and these definitions can be quite lengthy and precise.  But the definition of F/RAND is always word for word the same – never is a different term used, nor is any additional elaboration provided to explain exactly what “fair” or “reasonable” are intended to mean.

The result is that when two parties – the owner of a patent claim that an implementer of a standard can’t avoid infringing (an “Essential Claim”) and a party that wants to implement the standard – can’t agree on what the boundaries of these words should be, a third party is needed to settle the dispute.

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The Devil’s in the Cloud, Part IV: The Ghost of Christmas (Cyber) Future

Cybersecurity

You can find the first part of this series here

John Leech, The Last Spirit/Dickens' Christmas Carol - Public Domain, courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsIt would be convenient and consoling to pretend that what I’ve described over the last several days is simple science fiction. But sad to say, the only thing that is doubtful about the scenario I have described is that it might be difficult for the perpetrator to build a thousand drones without Western espionage becoming aware of the plan.

But would that really be so hard? Many countries are building drones now; the technology is not complex. Indeed, Germany launched V-1 drones against Britain more than seventy years ago. With GPS today, building and guiding sufficiently reliable drones of the primitive type needed to stage the attack I have described is within the technical ability of every nation that could be imagined to be an enemy. And there are plenty of old ships to go around.