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UN Bigwig: The Web Should Have Been Patented and Licensed 411

An anonymous reader writes "Cory Doctorow over at BoingBoing has unearthed an amazing video where the head of WIPO, the UN agency responsible for 'promoting' intellectual property, suggests that Tim Berners-Lee should have patented HTML and licensed it to all users. Amazingly this is done on camera and in front of the head of CERN and the Internet Society, who look on in disbelief."
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UN Bigwig: The Web Should Have Been Patented and Licensed

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  • WIPO == Idiots (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zabzonk ( 1467209 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @05:41AM (#37652824)
    I worked at WIPO as a consultant for a year - a bigger collection of clueless f*ckwits would be hard to find.
  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @05:46AM (#37652852) Journal

    A surgeon will recommend to operate. A lawyer to do legal work. A soldier to kill someone.

    This guy is at WIPO, patents and such is what this guy does. You won't get creative commons out of him.

    The problem is not even this guy, the problem is his opposition. There isn't one. As always, "Yes Prime Minister" has the example. Story: Hacker is given the task of coming up with a new transport policy involving road, rail and air. He soon learns that each sector is represented by a civil servant fighting not for the common good but for HIS sector.

    This story alone does not cover it. In another story his chauffeur comments on a radio story and points out that all the decisions for public transport, public schools and public healthcare are made by people that go to private hospitals, send their kids to private schools and have chauffeur driven cars. Which Hacker sayed they need because else they would have to make public transport a lot more reliable...

    The problem ain't sector reps fighting for their sector, the problem is the common man, the non-commercial, the non-status quo, has no such rep fighting for their cause.

    People who are in ivory towers have plenty of sky bridges connecting them to other ivory towers. But never ever a connection to ground level. I have seen it myself, even if some newbie tries, the disconnect is already so great once they have enough power that any contact attempt is extremely uncomfortable so they soon learn not to do it again.

    This is just how the system works, calling this guy an idiot only helps keep the system in place. Sadly getting a useful opposition in place is nearly impossible.

  • by Halo1 ( 136547 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @07:25AM (#37653156)

    I also experienced very nice example of this during the fight against the software patents directive in Europe. I had a discussion with a guy from WIPO and at one point said that software patents were generally bad for small companies. Rather than denying this like EICTA (the organisation representing mostly large ICT companies), he fully agreed with that.

    But then he went off the cliff: he argued that this is actually how the system is supposed to work. By making sure that most small companies will be driven out of business or swallowed by larger ones, you get a consolidation in the market. And consolidation is good for efficiency, cost cutting etc. Basically, he considered software patents as a market optimisation tool to get rid of all the fragmentation, to speed up the "natural" evolution that any economic sector is supposed to go through (starting out with many small time independent businesses, followed by a consolidation phase that leaves a few giants to rule it all).

    That said, WIPO isn't the worst. Countries such as India and Brazil also have a say in there, and they're far less extremist than the Western world (at least for now). WIPO is in fact so annoying to the current extremists that the US, EU and friends completely bypassed it with ACTA. So anyone arguing against UN bodies with the argument that those people are not accountable should be careful, because there at least you have countries from all over the world that have a say rather than only the interests of your own administration (or rather your own "IP"-lobbyists) and some self-selected partners.

  • Re:Hindsight (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rich0 ( 548339 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @09:35AM (#37653530) Homepage

    Patents document things sufficiently to mount legal battles - not so well that it makes it easier to reproduce an invention.

    Claim - a method in which atomic nuclei are fused together releasing energy capable of destroying cities.

    Go ahead and try to build a hydrogen bomb now...

    Chemists often mine old patents looking for ways to make things, but they're usually only useful as a starting point. If somebody wants to patent some molecule they'll publish some method that creates the molecule in 0.1% yield or whatever - enough to prove by spectral observation that they made it. They don't actually publish a practical method that can be used to make it, since they don't actually want anybody to make it.

    Look here [] for an example of this in action. The patent (#4,444,784) describes Simvastatin/Zocor - one of the more popular drugs ever taken and due to its expiry probably one of the most commonly prescribed medications around. The first method in the patent starts with 200 gallons of mold and ends up with enough compound to make about 10 pills - at one of the lower dosages. Suffice it to say this is not economical even at $5/pill.

    I didn't spend enough time digging through it to figure out which of the large family of compounds described in the patent ended up being the final pill and how you'd have to make it following the patent, but this is just illustrative. The patent was really just intended to cover the molecule, and the method just proves that they indeed had made it and tested its activity.

  • by openfrog ( 897716 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @09:51AM (#37653596)

    The web is a wonderful example for how sharing the burden can work without a traditional organization apportioning the shares. This guy simply doesn't get that.

    Agreeing with your insightful post, but a nuance about him not 'getting it': take notice how he talks about "sharing the burden among the users". We may be witnessing a new approach by WIPO and a fresh Newspeak idiom in gestation, where appropriation of the public good by private entities is presented as 'sharing'.

  • Re:Hindsight (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AmElder ( 1385909 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:58AM (#37653992) Homepage

    In this case, the groupthink is right on and Francis Gurry's [] counter-history, such as it is, is patently(!) absurd. People are responding to his specific point about the web, which Cory accurately summarised. Thanks for the reasoned deviation from the party line, though. (I see it's been modded flame bait, now, but I disagree) You deserve an equally good counter-argument and I'll try to give it.

    The context is a question posed to the panel: "How can countries, how can organisations improve in the area of innovation." In response to that question, and to the idea of measuring innovation that the Global Innovation Index aims to realise, everyone else on the panel talked about the important of things other than (you could say: in addition to) patents and traditional intellectual property tools. Daniele Archibugi [] included in his discussion of business innovations, an emphasis on the importance of institutions like schools (17:49) and of the infrastructure for innovation -- including the commons of the internet. Naushad Forbes [] called patents a "limited indicator of new product innovations and an almost non-existent indicator of new service and new business model innovations" (25:53), meaning that they do not account for the range of different kinds of innovation. Leonid Gokhberg [] talked about "differentiated policy mixes for different industries" as well as for different types of companies (33:57) because "innovation should be taken in its broad sense, including its non-technological, social, and environmental [effects]" (12:14).

    Rolf-Dieter Heuer [] talked about how the Index fails to measure true innovation because it measures patents and not basic science, which he argues is the essential driver of innovation, essentially an inaccurate indicator instead of the thing itself (13:32). He values "substantial change" over "incremental change" (13:40). As an example of this problem, he cites the invention of the world wide web, which because it was not patented would not have shown up in this index, and yet reflects an important innovation of current age (to understate the case).

    Francis Gurry addresses his concluding "white card" comments in response to Rolf-Dieter Heuer, but they apply as much to Lynn Saint-Amour's [] remarks, indeed you can see him begin to compose his words at 44:10 after she says "if it [the web] was patented, the internet community would have found a way to route around it." She talked generally, not terribly on-topic, about how innovators can use openness to their advantage and the value of non-traditional channels of innovation (the last point at 17:48).

    In the context of everything that came before, Mr Gurry's specific comments about the world web web reflect a dogmatic misunderstanding of how the web came to be and how it worked, especially in the 1990s. It's a bizarre and irrelevant counter-history, as I assume is being argued elsewhere in this thread as I compose this long and detailed reply. In brief, if the web had been patented and commercialised it would indeed have been routed around, as Lynn Saint-Amour said. Also, it would not have returned the patent profits to basic research, as Francis Gurry suggests, because then it would have become applied research and the funds would have funded incremental change in the commercial environment, to use Professor Heuer's words. Gurry does not seem to have been listening to the academics and policy advisers around him. They're all saying "tradition IP instruments can't do it all." His response is that "intellectual property is a very flexible instrument" (50:13), essentially "oh yes it can too do it all."

    I fancy you can get a measure of the in

  • Re:Hindsight (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AmberBlackCat ( 829689 ) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @12:23PM (#37654514)
    The way the current patent system works, they'd probably find some way to get gopher, ftp, bittorrent, and text messaging shut down, all on the grounds that it violates a patent on HTML. Something about a method of creating something based on text. But on a computer.

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