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February 13, 2002

U.S. Patent Debate to Pit IP Rights vs. Competition The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Justice Department's antitrust division will conduct hearings over the next six weeks to consider whether the government is issuing too many patents and (consequently) stifling collaboration and invention. Of course, the issue isn't the number of patents so much as the substance. Defenders of the patent system downplay such concerns. "The entry of patent law into these areas was greeted with predictions of disaster," said James Rogan, director of the U.S. patent office. "Yet the United States is the international leader in [software] and other technological areas." Rogan doesn't read OLDaily, obviously, which has shown how invention and sharing have been stifled. And he ignores the fact that U.S. patent law tends to be adopted (under pressure) by other counteries, so there is no comparative advantage or disadvantage. And he ignores the plucking of ideas and inventions from the public domain by patent poachers - things like, say, the human genome, hyperlinks and the works of Stravinsky. By George Leopold, EE Times, February 11, 2002.[Refer]

Did Gourmet Coffee Cause the Dot-Com Bust? Heh. Evidence for the theory that gourmet coffee caused the dot com bust. "The advent of gourmet coffee contributed to a certain overexcitement and lack of questioning." By Reshma Kapadia, Reuters, February 10, 2002.[Refer]

Why BT Claims It Owns the Right to 'Click Here' I have been covering this in 'In the Ether' but OLDaily readers should also be aware of British Telecom's ridiculous court case to enforce its patent on the hyperlink. Taking U.S. service provider Prodigy to court may force the service provider to change its ways, but most likely will not net BT one penny and will generate a lot of ill will in the process. What really gets me about this case is that (a) if BT really invented the hyperlink in 1975, then they sat on the invention for 20 years doing nothing (which is really shameful), and now stand ready to reap windfall profits from the hard work of others, and (b) had they enforced the patent instead of losing it in their archives, then we would most likely not have a world wide web today... after all, how many people use MiniTel? BT's case is one of the most convincing cases against the abuse of intellectual property I can think of. By Unknown, BBC News, January 11, 2002.[Refer]

Encouraging Open Code in Public Procurement Policies Insofar as as many educational institutions are publicly funded, is there a good argument for requiring that they purchase open source code instead of expensive proprietary products (read Microsoft and Adobe)? There's an argument to be made, and this article makes it. By Mikael Pawlo, NewsForge, February 9, 2002.[Refer]

The Tower Under Siege: Technology, Power and Education Book review. Educators foster the idea of the university as an institution that stands set apart from society as a whole, a sanctuary where academics may conduct research and advance ideas without being beholden to the politics or economics of the day. It's unclear whether this ever in fact the case, but in any event, this conception of the university is increasingly under siege. New developments in technology and education business models are challenging this traditional conception. Yet, through it all, academics conduct business as usual. By Michael Margolis, TC Record, February, 2002.[Refer]

What Are the Hot Trends in Technology? In a short sentence: security, artificial intelligence and 3G networks. Best comment of the article: "I've been eating a lot of broccoli because I think the future is going to be very, very cool and I want to be around to see it." I think that while security is always important, much of the recent attention will wane. Wireless broadband will be important, but the term 3G will disappear, replaced either by a standards designation (like 802.11a) or a brand name. Artificial intelligent will play a major role in the future but don't look for robots doing housework - look for things like search tools that learn from your selections, traffic lights that respond to traffic flow, monitoring systems in your car that tell you when a part is about to fail... things like that. By Nancy Weil, IDG News Service, February 11, 2002.[Refer]

The Shape of the E-learning Marketplace: Its Products, Services and Customers Good survey article identifying major components of the e-learning market. Concentrates on a list of five categories of product (with examples and trends) but also describes three types of e-learning services and offers a paragraph about customers. Worth noting is the observation that the market for e-learning content - especially short content - is saturated and the market for e-learning products and services is, in general, overpopulated. By Howard Hills, Training Journal, February, 2002.[Refer]


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