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   Re: Software patent debate: we lose round one

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  • From: Rick JELLIFFE <ricko@geotempo.com>
  • To: xml-dev@xml.org
  • Date: Mon, 29 May 2000 23:32:52 +0800

 Peter Murray-Rust wrote:
> My purpose is to remind XML-DEV members of the importance of XML-DEV as
> an archive. Anything information published on XML-DEV is effectively in the
> public domain (but not necessarily the IP it relates to).  

The thing that makes me very unhappy with US software patents is not
only that they represent a grab for monopoly rights by the most powerful
nation, which then asserts these monopoly powers against other countries
(in the
same breath as demanding that trade barriers be brought down),  but also
some of the patents seem to acquire ownership rights over uses ISO

When I worked as Australian delegate to the ISO SGML committee, we were
working to open up many areas of software to the public--things like
and data transfer and compiling schemas into UIs and linking and
etc were all areas we expected to open up.

It is simply wrong to have patents awarded for the bleeding obvious. And
it compromises the work of standards bodies if the fruit of their
can be immediately looted.

I having been toying with the idea of setting up an "Anti-Patent Office" 
in which anyone who has a good idea can send some email to document that
the prior art exists.  Perhaps Peter's idea for XML-DEV might do this

I note that Japanese patents have in the past been awarded on a very
different basis: from memory they acted for 5 years only, and the idea
was to 
make sure that good ideas came to market--it prevented a company from
patents to keep a good idea off the market (e.g. if it was not
But the result is also that japanese R&D is more geared to immediately
things (e.g., which could get a decent ROI over that 5 year period).  

I know the Americans have been trying to get other countries to move
towards American criteria for IP;  there is sometimes an article in the
press about how how we shouldn't put up with US bullying on this.  The
w.r.t the pharmeceutical industry are well known--poor countries cannot
to pay licenses for drugs even thought they could manufacture them. (I
the anti-HIV drugs are in this category: if the company that makes AZT
does not
market the drug with a low licence in Africa and hard-hit countries,
those countries' governments have the choice of letting the royalty
policies of
rich countries kill their citizens or of not recognizing the IP law,
causes trade disputes.)

Rick Jelliffe

P.S. On the particular issue of that vtopia patent on contextual
editing, we should see what it actually is before we get too excited.  
If they have done something genuinely novel and smart, it is a different
to if they are squatting (getting rights to something merely by being

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