09 April 2007

Coincidence? I Don't Think So....

Last week I noted a highly partial piece of writing that leapt to Microsoft's defence over its dispute with European Commission. And what do we have here? Why, a highly partial piece of writing that leaps to Microsoft's defence over its dispute with European Commission:

the Commission alleges that Microsoft has established "unreasonable" prices for its protocol licensing of its server technology in Europe. The Commission characterizes Microsoft's proprietary server software protocols, which is protected by patent, copyright and trade secret law, as containing "virtually no innovation." The Commission then remarkably concludes that everyone in the industry, nonetheless, "needs" Microsoft's protocols, and that Microsoft should provide them "royalty-free." What the EC demands in the end is that Microsoft make its intellectual property available to its competitors for free.

Now, where have I heard that before? Oh, yes:

The heart of the commission's theory, to quote its press release, is that "there is no significant innovation in the interoperability information" supplied by Microsoft and "hence the prices proposed by Microsoft are unreasonable." On this basis, the assertion is that Microsoft may charge only a nominal fee for the 10,000 pages of technical documentation it has provided and may face fines of up to 2 million to 3 million euros a day if the company does not yield.

The commission is silent on some inconvenient truths. European and U.S. patent offices have awarded Microsoft 36 patents for the technology in these interoperability protocols, and the company has an additional 37 pending applications being reviewed by patent offices around the world.

In order for technology to be patentable, it must be novel, "non-obvious," and make a technical contribution—in short, it must be innovative. What's more, trade secrets and knowhow also are valuable intellectual property, valued independently of their patentable character and protected by law and precedent internationally and in the EU. Indeed, the World Trade Organization's TRIPS agreement, to which all EU 27 member states are bound, expressly protects undisclosed information as a form of intellectual property, different from but co-equal with patents.

Uncanny: it's almost as if they were part of a concerted campaign, or something.

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