Thursday, May 31, 2012

We yesterday posted our observations here about a recent talk given by Dr Kristina Johnson, a prominent figure in the world of engineering, as part of our continuing interest in the narrative that thought-leaders in the world of innovation employ with respect to the role of IP and in particular the role of patents. A reader was kind enough to share with us several additional links in connection with Dr Johnson and this important subject. We are delighted to bring these links (here, here and here) to the attention of our readers. 

We thank our reader for these links and for contributing to the discussion on this important subject.
Category: articles
Today's splashdown of the SpaceX Dragon capsule off the coast of California completes the first successful visit of a private spacecraft to the International Space Station.

This news isn't really China-related, but it illustrates an important aspect of state vs private sector investment. To over-generalize a bit, (American) conservatives would prefer that the private sector do everything, and (American) liberals would prefer that the state do everything.

Here we have illustrated the importance of public-private partnership. Without the initial leadership of the state, the US would not have reached the moon in 1969. It took far more investment than any private sector investor would have been willing to risk for what was basically a huge experiment with no monetary payoff.

Based on a few decades of learning, a private company has now managed to come up with a solution far less expensive, and at least as effective, as anything the state could have come up with to send supplies to the space station. And this was apparently just the beginning; the Dragon capsule will someday ferry people too.

Bringing this lesson closer to my area of interest, perhaps it also makes sense that governments subsidize the development of alternative methods of fueling personal transportation. Right now, the economics of electric vehicles simply don't make sense. This is why it is important that governments step in to subsidize the experimental phase.

As with the original moon shot, alternative fuels and methods of propulsion are experimental (and arguably far more important), but no private sector investor would be willing to take such a risk to build a product that doesn't yet provide a positive return on investment.

This isn't to say that governments will always be right, but that's the nature of experimentation. Thomas Edison conducted over 3,000 experiments with different materials for filaments until he finally made a lightbulb that worked. For small experiments such as Edison's, no government help was needed, but without government regulation and assistance, we would never have moved beyond the traditional gas guzzlers we were driving back in the 1970s.

Scorn of conservatives: The Chevrolet Volt

When I began to research business-government relations in China's auto industry several years ago, I started with a question of why China seemed to be achieving such great success under the heavy hand of the state. What I have since learned is that, while, yes, the state can drive outstanding growth in an agrarian society with low living standards, the ability of the government to make good decisions declines as technology becomes more complex.

China has now reached a point where its government needs to be smart enough to step back and allow the private sector to compete freely (and not just talk about it). All the government assistance in the world will not make state-owned businesses competitive. They simply lack the proper incentives.

At the same time, the American people also need to realize that the US will never grow as fast as China has grown over the past three decades (and neither will China again). We also need to realize that there is a place for government to invest in experimentation that will result in much-needed future technology. Sometimes the government will make mistakes, but fear of making mistakes will deprive us of potential successes.

Being counted among the most advanced countries on earth is not easy, as the Chinese are about to discover, but the notion that either the government OR the private sector is best suited to drive future innovation is a false choice. We need both. We need the competitive zeal of the private sector, and, sometimes, we also need the deep pockets of the government to take on problems too big for the private sector.

The Chinese system of dominant state owndrship is nearing the end of its usefulness, and if the Chinese don't figure that out, they are doomed to stagnation and chaos. US arguments over "socialism" vs "free-markets" are also pointless. Somewhere, in the middle, there is an ideal system in which ownership still lies primarily with the private sector, but the government takes the big risks that can potentially save the planet for our children and grandchildren.
Category: articles

In a hard-hitting report on the dire state of the economy, the European Commission called for drastic action to prevent catastrophe tearing the region apart.

The single currency crashed to its lowest level for nearly two years last night as Brussels warned that the eurozone faces ‘financial disintegration’.

It proposed that money set aside for keeping debt-ridden governments afloat should now be used to rescue troubled European banks.

Read more:Daily Mail
Category: articles

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Those of you who follow me in the blogosphere know that one of my continuing interests is how thought leaders in the entrepreneurship space view the role of IP. I assume that IP practitioners are not involved in IP for its own sake (as intellectually engaging as we may find it), but rather for the services that IP may provide in enabling innovation and creativity. If that is so, the question is whether the practice of IP carries with it a certain dysfunctional tunnel vision, the far end of which yields only a narrow view that fails to take into account the broader context.

One way that I constantly try to measure the potential dysfunctionality of my professional vision is to read or listen to thought leaders in the world of entrepreneurship. While I recognize that not every entrepreneurial idea need involve the kind of innovation that requires IP protection (particularly patent and trade secrets), it is still more likely than not that most successful entrepreneurs are presumably acting in an area that one can expect to attract IP protection. To test this belief, I have become an avid podcast listener of the weekly (during school term) podcast broadcasts offered by the DFJ Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar offered under the aegis of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program.

Since this lectures series and the related entrepreneurship program are lodged within the world-famous Stanford Engineering program and its cache enables it to attract world-class figures in innovation and entrepreneurship, it has always seemed to me that the narratives set out by these lecturers should be a useful barometer in measuring how they view the role of IP. Accordingly, I was particularly eager to hear the remarks of Dr. Kristina Johnson, one of America's most distinguished engineering personalities here.

Dr Johnson has a breathtaking resume, from Stanford Ph.D. to a university professorship, to scores of registered patents, to Deanship of the Engineering School at Duke University, to Provost at Johns Hopkins University, to a stint as an Under Secretary in the Department of Energy in the Obama administration, to her current involvement in an energy-related start-up. Given her broad engagement in just about every possible aspect of innovative activity, Dr Johnson seems to be an ideal observer about where IP stands in this world.

Listening to her comments, I was struck once again by the pronounced sense of disjunction between her view of IP and that of the professional IP community. In commenting about her own professional trajectory, Dr Johnson mentioned patents only once, and that was in the context of anecdotal description of an early idea of hers (that ultimately was not patented). While she mentioned in passing her numerous registered patents, we are not given any insights into how these inventions were exploited, if it all. While the Bayh-Dole Act here is briefly referred to, we are given no indication whether its enactment affected her inventive activity and/or whether it resulted in increased commercial exploitation of her inventions.

Dr. Johnson's overall narrative was a compelling one, but IP played only a minimal role in the tale. It was the Q&A that brought out her further thoughts about IP. The first question was asked by a member of the audience who identified himself as retired from a well-known industrial (tech?) company of another era. The question was simple: how did she see the role of IP? It would seem that the question derived from the same sense that I had in listening to her comments--something seemed to be missing in her narrative.

Dr Johnson's response was, more or less, to acknowledge trade secrets and patents (in that order as I recall), with the comment that patents served mainly to provide early stage "barrier to entry." No other potential benefits of patents were mentioned. One could claim that had she been given additional time or a heads-up on this question, she might have answered differently. That is possible, but for the record, her response was that the principal purpose of patents was as a barrier to entry. She added words to the effect that, in her view, patents are often overemphasized where it is really the overall know-how of the company and the ability to execute that ultimately determines the company's success. Stated otherwise, patents offer certain tactical benefits but little more.

There is one more aspect to my tale. Stanford is the site of the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter) here, a program funded by the National Science Foundation, whose mission to infuse entrepreneurship and innovation skills into undergraduate engineering programs. During the podcast, Dr Johnson was mentioned as an advisor to the Epicenter. Keeping in mind that the Epicenter has as its goal the inculcation of innovation and entrepreneurship skills in engineering students, here is the question: How does the Epicenter view the role of IP in carrying out its mission? Does Dr Johnson reflect the consensus, or are there other views about the role of IP? If so, what are the views? Given the centrality of Stanford and Silicon Valley to engineering education as well as entrepreneurial activity, the answer to this question will have a material affect on the role of IP among the actors in that world.
Category: articles
"Key tax aspects of IP rights transfers", by Edita Ivanauskienė, Antanas Butrimas and Jurgita Randakevičiūtė (LAWIN Vilnius), provides a handy introduction to the niceties of the taxation of intellectual property right transactions in Lithuania. Published on International Law Office (here), this piece outlines the country's basic tax regime and then considers the position of tax-resident individuals, non-resident individuals, taxation of entities, Value-added tax (VAT) and the avoidance of double taxation.

Regarding VAT,
"The transfer of copyright and related rights, industrial property rights, franchise rights or know-how is considered a provision of services and is subject to value added tax at the standard rate of 21%".
It always seems strange to this blogger that an outright transfer of an intellectual property right should be regarded as the provision of a service.
Category: articles

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Anti-Theft and Locks. for Ford 2012 F-150 Platinum Locking Pickup Truck Tailgate Power Door Locks Operated Via Remote, SecuriCode(TM) Door Keypad and Internal Switch With Automatic Locking Vehicle Anti-Theft Via Alarm, SecuriLock(R) Engine Immobilizer and Exterior Monitoring Child Safety Door Locks Located On Rear Doors  Vehicle Anti-Lockout.

Braking and Traction.

    Electronic Transfer
Category: articles

Interior On top of its already comfortable, spacious interior, the F-150 offers a host of excellent standard features, such as the Easy Fuel™ Capless Fuel Filler and AdvanceTrac® with Roll Stability Control™ (RSC®), plus numerous option upgrades and wheel choices, which differ per model.

Exterior Features
F-150 is tough and functional from the outside in. The available integrated
Category: articles

Friday, May 25, 2012

To celebrate the imminent release of my book, Designated Drivers: How China Plans to Dominate the Global Auto Industry, I will be giving away three signed copies next week.

Designated Drivers is about much more than the auto industry. It uses China's auto industry to tell a story about how China's central government manages its economy in its drive to create global industrial champions. It's an important story for anyone considering doing business in or with China as well as for policymakers who want to better understand business-government relations in what is still the world's most consistently fast-growing economy.

If you would like a chance to win a free copy of my book, all you need to do is "like" the Designated Drivers Facebook page and share it on your page. The Facebook page is here:

On Tuesday, May 29 at 08:00, pacific time, I will select three "likers" at random* and send each of them an autographed copy of Designated Drivers.

And if the number of "likes" surpasses 500, I'll throw in another two copies for a total of five possibilities to win!

This morning a friend emailed me a picture taken at a bookstore in Hong Kong showing a few copies already on the shelves there, so it should only be another week or so before copies reach North America.

* To ensure randomness, I will copy all names into an Excel spreadsheet, number them consecutively, and use Excel's random function to select three (or maybe five!) numbers from the list.
Category: articles

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I will admit: I am Pareto's principal devotee. The basic idea that numerous phenomena can be characterized by the "notion of the vital few" will account for the lion's share of something seems to resonate with my own anecdotal and analytical experience. Often referred to as the "80/20 rule" (such as "80% of one's sales come from 20% of one's customers"), I find myself finding Pareto-like results even when I am not really looking for them.

The eponymous principle derives from an observation made by Vilfredo Pareto that 80% of land in Italy (and other countries) was owned by 20% of the population. However, the name "Pareto principle" was in fact not coined by Pareto himself, but by a fascinating U.S. engineer named Joseph Juran, who story is itself worth retelling. Suffice to say that Juran's contributions to management based on his adaptation of Pareto's findings is an often under- appreciated milestone in the field here.

I would like to use the notion of the Pareto principle to consider a question that was asked on a recent "60 Second Tech" podcast produced by Scientific American magazine: How many people download only free or spend very little (a dollar or so) for smartphone apps? Citing a study by ABI Research here, the podcast reported that 70% of all users of smartphone apps download only free or virtually free apps, This, more or less, suggests a Pareto-like division, whereby only 30% of smartphone users ever pay for any apps that are not free or virtually so.

This result resonates with a finding that I remember hearing about Twitter, whereby only 20%-30% of Twitter users account for the lion's share of Tweets. Once again, Pareto seems to be popping up all over. But the ABI Research-inspired podcast reported additional data regarding the app-buying habits of smartphone users. Having regard to the release that accompanied the report, it turns out that only 3% of app users account for nearly 20% of all expenditures for apps, where the average outlay by users who have at least once paid for an app (including this small number of hard-core users) is approximately $14.00 per month. Pushing even further on these results, it turns out that the median monthly outlay for app users is only approximately $7.50, approximately 50% less than the average monthly expenditures of $14.00.

Consistent with a Pareto-like view of the world, there is certainly nothing Gaussian about the discrepancy between the mean and median amount of the monthly outlay. In a word, app developers who hope to cash in on their creative efforts are relying a very thin layer of app users. Moreover, there appears to be a clear distinction in the type of apps that will attract "high-roller" users. Most of these apps are what is called "a utility app", most frequently for business purposes. A second category of apps that attract paying customers are "iOS games monetized through strings of in-app purchases." At the other end, apps regarding sports and the like can expect to have little or no commercial traction.

 The ABI Research report suggested two ways that app developers can somehow improve the commercial odds against enjoying even a semblance of commercial success:
 1. Try to make sure that your app either supports or is supported by a web component. 
2. Try to find a way to convince your customer that the app merits a long-term (by app standards) engagement by them. 
One way to do so is by the time-honoured practice of first giving the app away for free with the hope that you will develop a small yet highly devoted band of followers who will be willing to lay out monthly sums to ensure their continued access to the app and its updates or upgrades. I have to admit--this is all very depressing. My son is nearing the completion of a Computer Science degree and I wonder what I would advise him, should he announce one day that he has decided to work on developing smart phone apps. If not quite "blood, sweat and tears", should I counsel him on the dismal likelihood of success? Or should I simply wish him the best on his journey and assure him that he has always has a roof over his head, if all else fails?

More generally, I wonder whether the business model described above is sustainable in the longer run, whereby the promise of substantial revenues for the very few, together with the more broadly based challenge to develop an app that will be used by others, irrespective of whether such an app generates revenues, will continue.

More on the Pareto principle here.
Category: articles

Thursday, May 17, 2012

OUP: a great opening
for the right candidate
Oxford University Press has a newly-created post for a good and suitably-qualified soul who will hold responsibility for setting up, managing and administering the acquisition and licensing of intellectual property rights within OUP's English Language Teaching (ELT) Division -- described as 
"a global leader in the provision of multimedia English language teaching and learning materials. Operating in over 100 countries, it reaches millions of teachers and students each year ..."
The job title is Intellectual Asset Manager.  For the record, since we're talking about a body which forms part of the great and perplexingly complex legal octopus which is Oxford University, the adjective "intellectual" applies to "asset" rather than "manager".

A "broad understanding of copyright law, including experience of publishing agreements" is among the items listed in the job specification -- but there's nothing to say that a legal qualification is required, so this might be a perfect position for a gifted and enthusiastic amateur.

For full details just click here.  Closing date for applications is 3 June 2012.
Category: articles

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The IP Finance weblog welcomes the latest guest post from Keith Mallinson (WiseHarbor) on a subject which he has really made his own: the subtle interplay of sometimes competing and sometimes congruent private and public interest in the shaping of the dynamics of the market for the licensing of technology in the information, communication and telecom sector.  This post touches on a topic that has been the subject of all-too-little discussion in IP circles.  IP rights help to establish the existence of winners in the marketplace -- but who gets to decide who those winners should be?
The Folly of Picking Winners in ICT

Government attempts to favour and promote certain business models, companies and technologies are justifiably criticised. The UK Cabinet Office’s proposed policy to mandate the use of only pre-selected, royalty-free standards in public ICT procurement is similarly flawed. This will limit choice by foreclosing many popular open standards, numerous products which adhere to them and companies who depend on upstream licensing revenues. The Open Standards Board responsible for implementing this policy will face significant governance challenges in ensuring impartially in standards selections. In contrast, free-market processes allowing competition among a much wider array of open standards and software licensing maximises customer choice across many different government departments, fosters innovation, reduces lifecycle costs and enables obsolete or poorly performing standards to be superseded.
Mandating particular standards and discriminating against or excluding royalty-based business models in government procurement constitutes hazardous industrial policy for the UK. The government is the largest UK ICT spender on with annual expenditures of approximately £18 billion in recent years. Direct and likely indirect consequences of this large purchaser on the ICT marketplace, such as explicitly or implicitly obliging citizens, as well as government suppliers of other goods and services, to adopt the same standards, would be significant with this policy.

Dirigisme versus facilitation
Governments have a history of making bad decisions in championing particular companies, technologies and business models. For example, the Inmos semiconductor company received £211 million from the UK government in the 1970s and 1980s with its strategy to produce commodity D-RAMs and develop its “transputer”, but the company foundered, did not become profitable after many years and was sold to SGS-Thomson in 1989. The UK is effectively nonexistent in semiconductor manufacturing today. The UK’s “fabless” semiconductor companies such as ARM, Picochip (acquired by Mindspeed Technologies in 2012) and Icera (acquired by NVIDIA in 2011) rely on partners including foreign “foundries” to fabricate their designs. 
State monopoly France Telecom forced adoption of the Minitel videotext online service in the 1980s by withdrawing phone books and spending billions giving away the terminals to citizens. The associated technological standards and equipment manufacturers made minimal headway with Minitel technologies abroad and were eclipsed by the advance of the Internet in the 1990s. Minitel provided consumers with their first means of online access. However, views on long-term benefits to French consumers are mixed. Resistance to replace the entrenched home-grown standard caused France to be a laggard in Internet adoption.

In contrast, supporting entire industry sectors where a nation has strategic strength is more justifiable and attracts widespread support from various commentators. For example, clustering of complementary and competitive companies can be beneficial. In these circumstances, market forces spur competitive behaviour, including some Schumpeterian “creative destruction”, which helps eliminate the sclerosis and risks that come with monoculture. For example, Silicon Valley in California provides a fertile technical and commercial environment in which various business models and many ICT companies, standards and products have flourished while others have failed.

Better for less

A key stated objective with the proposed Cabinet Office policy is to level the “playing field” for open source and proprietary software. It is, therefore, perverse that standards based on Fair Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) licensing and requiring patent fees should be the principle target for elimination with this policy. The policy will automatically also exclude many proprietary offerings that are based on those standards and which cannot practically be adapted to other, royalty-free, standards. In many cases, such standards are widely implemented by many suppliers and are used by the vast majority of business customers and consumers.

The cabinet office seeks to mandate specific royalty-free standards to achieve various objectives including cost reduction and avoiding vendor lock-in, as well as making ICT solutions fully interoperable. However, a report entitled Better for Less, published in 2010 by Liam Maxwell, now Deputy Government CIO and the proposed policy’s champion, identifies that most UK government ICT spending is with systems integration companies including HP/EDS, Fujitsu Services, Capgemini and IBM. The Government's over-reliance on large contractors for its IT needs combined with a lack of in-house skills is also a "recipe for rip-offs" according to a report by the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) in July 2011.These suppliers are typically deeply embedded with long-term contracts that government finds difficult to unravel.

Software represents only a relatively small playing field in comparison to others in ICT spending. According to Forrester Research figures, market segments where open source software competes or combines with proprietary software products represent just 12.4% of $2.5 trillion total global business and government ICT expenditures including operating system software (1.0%), non-custom-built applications (6.7%) and middleware (4.7%). In comparison, IT services (11.6%) and outsourcing (9.8%) combined represent 21.5% of spending. Computer equipment represents 13.9%. The $2.5 trillion total appears to exclude very significant costs for internal staffing.

Software licensing costs are included even in modestly-priced PCs. The PASC report also indicated it was “ridiculous that some departments spend an average of £3,500 on a desktop PC”. A 2011 Cabinet Office press release stated it would “end poor value contracts such as those where Government departments and agencies paid between £350 and £2,000 for the same laptop”. The response to a government procurement freedom of information request on this matter by shows that while these prices actually represent totally different PC specifications, the proprietary operating system and office document software is identical in each case, with differences relating to microprocessors, displays, wireless modems and functionality such as fingerprint recognition accounting for the very large pricing disparity.

Uncertain scope, invalid distinctions

The proposed policy states that standards selection will be limited to software interoperability, data and document formats. The scope of these terms is unclear. And, in the next few years it will become even more difficult meaningfully to separate standardisation in these from other domains. The consultation’s terms of reference make the invalid assumption that software is distinct from hardware and that telecommunication is distinct from computing. Evidence weighs against these arguments with increasing technological convergence and other changes in ICT. Smartphones and tablets are becoming the dominant computing platforms in our personal lives and at work. Similarly, PCs have overtaken mainframe computers and revolutionised ICT usage since the 1980s. Communications is intrinsic to these new mobile devices and is increasingly integrated with most desktop PCs including web, and cloud-based usage where demarcations between software, hardware and service are submerged.

Video is becoming most prevalent. According to long-standing Cisco CEO, John Chambers, in a recent Bloomberg Business Week article, “Every device, five years from now, will be video. That’s how you’ll communicate with your kids, with work.” Switching video standard is nothing like the peripheral task of simply replacing or adapting the mains plug on a TV set. Interoperability standards for video compression and encoding are highly complex algorithms that are deeply and extensively embedded in the workings of core hardware and software. Around one third of Internet traffic is streaming video and mobile video traffic already exceeds 50%.Virtually all of that conforms to FRAND-based standards requiring patent licensing, including AVC/H.264 (MPEG 4 Part 10) with most widespread adoption.

The customer is always right

Standards requirements change with technological innovations and shifting user needs. It is very difficult for any centralized government administration to anticipate or react with the dynamics of ICT supply and demand. Competition among standards is highly beneficial. Market forces precipitate occasional revolutionary changes with new standards displacing old standards (e.g. HTML substitutes for videotext standards such as that used by Minitel) and continuous, incremental improvements to existing standards (e.g., HTML5 replaces previous versions of HTML). Changes in user preference and demand can be difficult to predict. For example, within a few years of the introduction of Apple’s iOS-based iPhone in 2007 and Google’s Android in 2008, former smartphone market leaders Nokia and RIM, each with its own operating system software, were completely up-ended. The highly innovative capabilities with the new software platforms and devices have succeeded because they are very different to and much better than what they have replaced.

Different government departments have diverse needs. Whereas interoperability among UK government departments is important, so is optimising interoperability and access by end users, commercial partners and international organisations. Defence requirements can preclude the most widespread propagation of interoperability and encryption standards. Maximising functionality, security and interoperability for patient records among health authorities will be compromised by imposing standards that are chosen to accommodate requirements in education.

From a user’s perspective, functionality and interoperability with other users trumps supply-side considerations including the number of prospective ICT suppliers and lowest price.

Upstream savings, downstream costs

While seeking to eliminate licensing fees, open source software and royalty-free standards do not ensure lower overall costs. On the contrary, there is significant evidence that open source is no cheaper than proprietary solutions, including total ICT lifecycle costs with project implementation and support. In many cases, total costs may also be lower with technical efficiencies and large economies of scale that arise from the implementation of popular royalty-charging standards. It is practically impossible to create some high-performance ICT standards without infringing any patents for which royalties might be demanded.

Patent fees on popular FRAND-based standards are typically modest. Patent pool administrator MPEG LA licenses 2,339 patents it deems essential to H.264 from 29 licensors to 1,112 licensees for a maximum per unit rate of $0.20. This covers the vast majority of patents declared as essential to the standard. With around 6 billion mobile phones in service worldwide, aggregate royalties are low enough for GSM phones to be sold at price points down to less than $20. However, these fees significantly enable technology companies with upstream business models. They also allow vertically-integrated players to recoup some of their development costs from companies with downstream business models who make products but do not invest in developing the standards-based technologies. Eliminating the possibility of royalties merely forecloses upstream business models in favour of the downstream businesses, such as those that dominate government ICT spending, including hardware manufacturing, systems integration, technical support and outsourcing.

Open and competitive ICT markets allow the widest range of business models and licensing practices, including royalty free standards and open source software. There are many examples of open source software running on FRAND-based standards requiring royalty fees. For example, there are various proprietary and open source software codec implementations available for the H.264 video standard. It would be nonsense to bar this standard in favour of another standard that has only tiny adoption (the most fundamental barrier to interoperability among users), inferior or unproven performance including technical compliance and interoperability among implementations. And, in the case of video, for example, it would most likely infringe some of the very same patents used by the successful standard it would be replacing. So there is a significant possibility that patent fees would be required despite wanting to wish them away. Developing a high-quality video codec standard is a formidable task drawing upon lots of intellectual property. Designing around the best technologies to avoid royalty bearing technologies will result in inferior standards and implementations.

There is generally no conflict between open source licensing and paying patent royalties to third parties. In certain cases where there is conflict, this is the problem of the licensors’ making. The most stringent open source licenses; such as GNU GPLv3—in which “patents cannot be used to render the program non-free”—is seldom used because of such conflicts. In cases where licensing prohibits patent fees, the only legal solution is for such software to be written to ensure it does not infringe any IP that has not also been specifically declared royalty free by its owner.

Governance with selector selection

The Open Standards Board responsible for implementing the policy will face significant governance challenges in ensuring impartiality in its members and the standards selection processes they oversee. It will be difficult to recruit board members who have the required competence in ICT standards, and who as individuals, employees, or academics, are completely free of any interests in the outcome of any standards selections. Members will be affected by their other interests in specific companies, standards groups and business models.

International harmonisation and liberalisation

The European Commission’s approved guidelines on the applicability of Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) for horizontal co-operation agreements recognise the importance and value of standardization agreements.
“Standards which establish technical interoperability and compatibility often encourage competition on the merits between technologies from different companies and help prevent lock-in to one particular supplier.”
These gtidelines lay out a comprehensive approach for conformity of standardisation agreements with Article 101 TFEU, creating a “safe harbour” while affording standard-setting organisations significant autonomy in setting policies for disclosure of IP and its licensing terms. FRAND licensing, with and without payment of royalties, is explicitly recognised. Licensing policies of many international ICT standards-setting organisations including IEEE, ETSI, ITU-T, CEN/CENELEC are consistent with these guidelines and the charging of patent fees on their standards. It would be a travesty to exclude their standards from government usage in the UK, even if this was only on the basis of attempting to do so for what the Cabinet Office delineates as software interoperability, data and document formats.
Category: articles

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

EEStor released a press release today.

Read about it here.
Category: articles

Monday, May 14, 2012

I recently traveled to Beijing to attend the 2012 Beijing Auto Show as well as to attend the Automotive News China Conference. While no one can expect to gain a full understanding of China during a quick trip like this one (indeed, one must live there for an extended period in order to learn that he can never fully understand China), such trips are often helpful for taking the pulse of what's going on at the moment.

First, a bit about the conference. Like most industry conferences, this one is basically a big networking opportunity surrounded by presentations from industry notables. My greatest impression was that, despite less than impressive growth numbers in the first quarter of this year, everyone seemed very optimistic about the prospects for longer term growth in China's auto market.

A lot of the discussion centered around the still largely untapped markets in China's Tier-3 and Tier-4 cities, and how dealer networks have aggressive expansion plans to take advantage of burgeoning demand among middle class Chinese consumers. And because the majority of auto purchases in China are still cash transactions, dealers see the ability to expand and sell their finance offerings as another key to getting more people behind the wheel.

From a personal point-of-view, while I learned much from the presentations, also I could not help but wonder why, for all of its stated intention of doing its own thing, going its own way, doing everything with "Chinese characteristics," China seems determined to build a consumer society with "American characteristics." Why is China copying some of the least attractive of American characteristics such as streets crowded with slow-moving vehicles, polluted air and consumer debt that has allowed us to live beyond our means?

While I wouldn't want to deny China the opportunity to develop itself and to improve standards of living, I wonder why China's planners cannot look down the road and foresee the kinds of problems that already exist in the US. Here is a chance for creative thinkers to leap ahead to solutions that will allow Chinese citizens the kind of personal mobility that will enhance their lives without bringing many of their negative characteristics.

And speaking of leaping ahead, this is a good point for me insert a few pictures and observationr from the Auto Show.

This first picture is of a concept car shown by Chery, a local state-owned automaker from Anhui province. Actually, it's two cars, called the @Ant, connected to each other.
While I have to give Chery kudos for its creativity on this one, I felt like their design was more of a novelty than something that could truly solve problems. First, even though these cars are intended to be smaller, their footprints are actually quite large. Because the front wheels are intended to link up with another car in front, when the car is driven solo, those extended front wheels still take up a lot of room.

Also (and I really hate to nitpick here) aren't we pretty close to having technology what would allow cars to "link up" virtually with the use of software and proximity sensors? Such wireless technology would eventually allow for linkages to take place on the fly without the vehicles even needing to slow down. I'm guessing that the physical linkage suggested by Chery would require the vehicles to slow down, if not stop altogether, in order to establish a link.

In terms of more realistic concept vehicles, my impression this time was that Chinese designers (in some cases) have improved their design skills and visions since the last auto show I attended in Shanghai in 2009.

This crossover concept, also from Chery, really flows with some clever use of side panel creasing.
And this MG concept from Shanghai Auto was also an eye-catcher. I like the way they were able to integrate the traditional MG look with the round headlights into a very contemporary design.

And here's another nice concept from First Auto Works with really smooth lines. Unfortunately, FAW had it displayed in such a way that it was nearly impossible to capture the whole car in a single photo.

As in Shanghai 2009, everyone this year was still eager to demonstrate that they were developing new energy vehicles. Also like Shanghai 2009, practically none of the green vehicles on display could actually be bought by Chinese consumers.  (Of course, the foreign automakers also showed their NEV offerings like the Toyota Prius, Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, etc.)

Here's the apparently electric version of Guangzhou Auto's Trumpchi which is built on an older Alfa Romeo platform (no doubt acquired from its new partner Fiat which owns Alfa).

I say this is an "apparently" electric version because, like many NEVs at the show, the only indication of their NEV status was a nearby sign or decals on the side. A look at the interior of some of these cars revealed the traditional shifter associated with an automatic or manual transmission -- which electric vehicles don't need.

This is the Denza, a new brand created by a joint venture between the private Chinese firm BYD and Daimler of Germany. This NEV is slated to go on sale in 2014.
Suicide doors also seemed to be all the rage this year, though no one actually has the guts to sell a car with this really cool feature.

Another common theme I noted was the traditional Chinese blue and white pottery theme on this sedan by local Chinese automaker Hawtai and a custom version of the Smart for Two.
And in case you are still wondering why Beijing wouldn't let Sichuan Tengzhong buy Hummer a few years ago...
... here's the Chinese version made by Dongfeng Motor. As you can see it's every bit as pretentious as the old US version which (fortunately) is no longer made, depriving some Americans of opportunities to unwittingly make fools of themselves.  ;-)

I didn't take a lot of photos of the non-Chinese automakers' stands as my interest on this trip was primarily in what the Chinese are working on. However, I did notice that all of the Detroit Three are projecting a lot more confidence than they did in 2009. If you remember, GM and Chrysler were still on the ropes then, and Ford was also pretty deep in debt. This year, all three had much larger stands, a lot more vehicles (including some really fascinating concepts) and were drawing such huge crowds that it was hard to walk through.

Here's a cool batmobile-looking concept from Chevrolet called the Miray.
The dancing blondes at the Ford stand attracted every red-blooded Chinese man with a point-and-shoot camera like bees to clover, so I couldn't get a good look at the new SUV Ford was displaying.
And finally, here's a shot of an Audi stand outside of one of the pavilions. What's so interesting about this? The characters on the building are inviting people to check out their used cars (二手车, literally "second hand car").
China's auto market is still so new that about 85% of car buyers today are still first-time buyers. But since 2005 over 80 million vehicles have been sold in China. This means that an increasing number of used vehicles will be available as many previous first-time buyers trade up.

I would not have expected to see used cars being touted at an auto show, but since Chinese consumers still overwhelmingly consider foreign brands to be superior to Chinese brands, it makes sense that a first-time buyer might be persuaded to buy a used car, certified by a foreign automaker, rather than a brand new Chinese-branded car.

As for the auto show itself, I have to say that it was a bit of a disappointment. The organizers of this show appeared to be more interested in how many tickets they could sell than in putting on a good show. Even though they designated different days as media days, industry days and public days, there appeared to be no real distinction as tickets were offered for sale to anyone who showed up.

China's biggest auto show alternates between Bejing and Shanghai on even and odd years, respectively. In the future, I think the odd years will be enough for me.
Category: articles
About a year ago, all waited with baited breath for the Next Big Thing to debut from Apple when it came time to reveal their new iteration of the iPhone franchise. The anticipation became greater and the tension grew  until the big day when Apple finally revealed the iPhone4S to a fan base drooling at the idea of a new product from the folks in Cupertino.

A few weeks after the phone came out, the loyal Apple users were fairly unanimous in their lukewarm reaction to the new offering.

Lukewarm? Yep- it seems besides the addition of Siri, the iPhone4S was simply a refreshed version of the iPhone4 with a little bit faster processor and a tweak of the software. Fanboys would have to wait until 2012 for the next Next Big Thing. Surely this time the new phone will be equipped with way-out-there tech and stuffed with unbelievable surprises for the fan base. Excitement over the debut of the iPhone5 has already begun.

Maybe the new iPhone5 will be an enormous leap of technology and imagination. But, how should I know? I'm just a humble blogger from the heartland of America.
This is one idea for the iPhone5. There are thousands of others out there.
(source: unknown)
Well, maybe the people at would know. Just like the last few years, gathers  rumors and whispers from all over the world and presents them to the reader for review and consideration. Some rumors are wild and others are more mundane and are all unverified. But, the fun is in the what-if scenarios that keep us all guessing and builds interest for the reveal sometime later this year.

At some point, Apple's iPhone5 will be old news, but not right now. As of now, the impending debut of the iPhone5 is the hottest thing out there. Go to to learn more.

At least, that's what I heard. What do you know?

Category: articles

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Zafira Tourer features the front axle of the Insignia, with an isolated sub-frame and a McPherson strut. The layout of the rear axle is unique in the monocab segment. Still a rarity in the monocab segment, the intelligent, fully-adaptive FlexRide chassis control system in the Zafira Tourer enhances driving comfort and safety on demand. It automatically adapts to road conditions, cornering
Category: articles
The Astra GTC can be ordered immediately with a cho

New Astra GTC is very much inspired by the Opel GTC Paris Concept revealed last fall at the Mondial de l’Automobile. The compact and sporty five-seater with coupé appeal and dramatic proportions Astra GTC has a unique design which does not share any exterior element with other members of the Astra family, except for the outside rear view
Category: articles

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Prepare yourself for another round of questions about Google's cooperation with evil practices thanks to a video posted yesterday by Rexxfield founder Michael Roberts.   In the video, Roberts advances a well thought out theory that Google may be intentionally promoting search results which allege misdeeds of the persons being searched for in order to generate more advertising revenue.   So, if
Category: articles

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The United States Patent and Trademark Office recently issued a report, Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus, by Peggy Garvin. According to the press release which accompanied its launch, the report:
"... finds that intellectual property (IP)-intensive industries support at least 40 million jobs and contribute more than $5 trillion dollars to, or 34.8 percent of, U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). 
While IP is used in virtually every segment of the U.S. economy, the report identifies the 75 industries that use patent, copyright, or trademark protections most extensively. These “IP-intensive industries” are the source – directly or indirectly – of 40 million jobs. That’s more than a quarter of all the jobs in this country. Some of the most IP-intensive industries include: Computer and peripheral equipment, audio and video equipment manufacturing, newspaper and book publishers, Pharmaceutical and medicines, Semiconductor and other electronic components, and the Medical equipment space".
I always have some reservations about exercises, since the are always going to be problems in measurement.  In the first place, if IP is construed in wide enough terms, there's scarcely a business of any size that isn't supported by it. Lists of customers and suppliers, licensed software, business and trading names are pretty well ubiquitous. There's also the question of causation: how many of the jobs in question are specifically related to the existence of IP, how many to the provision of a service or the supply of goods that would have generated employment even if it had been generic and devoid of IP protection?

You can access the full (62-page) report here.

Thanks are due to Chris Torrero for the link.
Category: articles
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