Jerry Rosenthal, CEO of intellectual patents company – Open Invention Network (OIN), was in India last week to interact with technology companies in Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad. During its trip, OIN met with leaders in government, the IT industry and with India IP experts to discuss ways Linux can promote innovation as well as how to better protect Linux end-users and developers. Two Indian companies were announced as new licensees of OIN – ClickforHelpIndia.com and Quad One Technologies. ClickforHelpIndia.com is a partnership between ClickforHelp.com of Vienna, Virginia and Sumangala CreativeTech India Pvt. Ltd. (SCTI) of Hyderabad. It offers call center helpdesk services. Quad One Technologies Pvt. Ltd. of Hyderabad provides offshore software consulting services for the healthcare/pharmaceutical industry.
Indian law does not recognize software patents as of now, though it is under tremendous pressure from the WTO to buckle under. Today, Indian IT companies involved in offshoring and outsourcing for US clients are the prime candidates for joining OIN’s license network.
OIN was formed in 2005 by IBM, NEC, Novell, Philips, Red Hat, and Sony. It has more than 100 worldwide patents and patent applications as part of its patent commons. These patents can be licensed royalty-free by companies to provide IP protection to Linux end-users, distributors and developers. OIN, a for-profit company, is one of the many organizations such as the Linux Foundation and SFLC who have set up groups to defend Linux against possible patent attacks. One of OIN’s goals is to evaluate software and hardware Linux-based solutions and potentially acquire, for its patent commons, the IP embodied in the best solutions.
The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) held their second seminar on IT standards in Bangalore on April 12 where they seem to have acquired a semblance of political rectitude by including participants and speakers from a wider swath of the industry. In contrast to the first seminar held earlier this year in New Delhi (February 21), they allowed competing industry stakeholders to represent their positions on IT standards. Proponents of the Open Document Format (ODF) such as IBM, Sun, and Red Hat emphasized the need for open, global standards. Microsoft with its Office Open XML (OOXML) standard reiterated Craig Mundie’s message from his talk in Delhi that standards should support interoperability and innovation should be forged through strong IPR.
BIS’s additional director general Rakesh Verma announced the formation of a panel of 30 organizations to work along with BIS to help build IT standards for India. Action items for this panel include identifying relevant international standards documents and creating India-specific standards as needed. One hopes that BIS will keep the process transparent to ensure open dialog and comments by the public and experts at large.
Today the digital world has multiple vendors and multiple standards. From a nation’s point of view, choosing only one standard from among multiple non-universal standards may be premature. However, enforcing interoperability via adopting open formats and promoting a level playing field can ensure that competing standards play together and communicate productively. An open standards development process can only enhance the prospects of interoperability. The government’s interest lies in having all stakeholders compete fairly to protect and support the consumer’s interests.
In its latest efforts to promote the importance of intellectual property rights (IPR), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) recently awarded the King of Thailand HM Bhumibol Adulyadej, an avid artist and an inventor with over 20 patents and 19 trademarks – its new “WIPO Global Leaders Award”. This award is intended to recognize world leaders who promote IPR in their sphere of influence at national and international levels.
Ironically, Thailand, a country of 60 million people with a per capita income of $8,300 USD, has been marked as a serious offender of IPR because of piracy and copyright infringement. Piracy accounts for a high percentage of the Thai market for movies, music (approx. 50%), software (approx. 80%), and books, most of which are produced in developed countries. The country has been targeted by IIPA’s Priority Watch List for 2007 (see my post on IIPA’s Special 301 report).
The Global Leaders Award may now increase pressure on Thailand to comply with WIPO rules, starting right from the top with the King.
Reading through the International Intellectual Property Alliance’s (IIPA) Special 301 report… It is shocking to see an alliance of special interests declare itself judge, jury and executioner. “Comply or lose WTO/WIPO favors” is the message. The IIPA seems to think that the whole world should further the interests of its members who are primarily US organizations such as the MPAA, RIAA, AAPA and BSA.
India has made it to IIPA’s “Priority Watch” list this year. Countries lucky enough to be on this list are being admonished for not doing enough to protect US Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). Should this be the highest priority for developing nations? Wealthy nations like the US must use their vast repertoire of IPR to improve the state of the world instead of hoarding all knowledge for their own gain.