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At 1:58 PM +1100 2/16/04, Rick Jelliffe wrote:
>It feels like Microsoft spitting on ISO and W3C, and the
>What is the point of making general-purpose standards if one rich company or
>another can go ahead and monopolize chunks? Don't US citizens see that
>(some in) rest of the world see this kind of thing as a pattern of
>the US (indeed, the West) grabs whatever it can get away with,
>about freedom or innovation or rights or development, thereby preventing
>non-Westerners from having a fair chance?
Please don't paint this as a U.S. vs. the world issue. It isn't.
There are many, many programmers here in the U.S. who are just as
pissed off about this as you are. There are also companies and
programmers outside the U.S. who play this game as well, though for
historical reasons the biggest players are still in the U.S. This
would be a non-issue in much of the world were it not for the
compliance of local governments.*
The real conflict here is between corporations and individuals. (Even
that is vastly too simplistic, but it's a first stab at defining the
problem.) IBM, Apple, Microsoft, Intergraph, Intel, Fujitsu, etc. can
afford to play this game. We poor open source developers can't.
If this were really a conflict between countries (as opposed to
between classes) then it would be simple enough for Australia, China,
etc. to simply not provide any legal patent protection. If that's too
radical a notion, then they could easily place more stringent
requirements on originality before a patent was granted.
The failure to do this should be seen as a failure of the local
government, not a failure of the United States. We're responsible for
our own broken patent office, and indeed it's hurting us badly.
However we are not responsible for Australia's broken patent office,
or Japan's, or anyone else's. Non-U.S. patent systems are broken for
the same reason the patent system in the U.S. is broken: the broken
patent system does server some local interests to the detriment of
other local interests.
Personally, my interests are served by a much weaker patent system,
and I would cheer any country that chose to move in that direction.
However, I do recognize that this a conflict of interest between
different classes, and the class that is well-served by the current
patent system is hardly unique to the United States, any more than
the class to which I belong.
Elliotte Rusty Harold
Effective XML (Addison-Wesley, 2003)
* I will accept U.S. blame for intellectual property regimens where
the U.S. has installed a client government such as Iraq. I don't
think China or the U.K. falls into that category. You could claim it
for Australia or Japan if you really want to, but it would be a