Monday miscellany Part 2

Via David Lucas (whom the Kats thank) comes a YouTube link to this interview with Michael O'Leary at the Innovation Convention 2011.  Michael is CEO of Ryanair, an airline on which this Kat does not propose to pass comment.  Asked about IP and the patent system, Michael felt that it did indeed support committed scientists and medical research and that it encouraged R&D.  He also agreed with a position which this Kat has supported from time to time, that the tax system could be put to better use in creating and steering business incentives into desired forms of investment and business development.

On trolls and traffic wardens.  One of the IPKat's readers, inspired by some of the vitriolic comments with which many folk who inhabit the social media greeted the news that Sisvel International had acquired more than 450 Nokia patents, most of which relate to wireless technologies, was moved to comment as follows:
"This anti-troll vitriol made me think that our collective distaste for trolls is in fact comparable to the instinctive dislike some people have for traffic wardens, or indeed the police. The analogy is useful because it casts a light on where the problem lies: more (much more) in the audience than in the actors. 
Here a purchaser whose business it is to manage IP has bought a partially licensed FRAND portfolio from a company which can revert to what is (or should be) their primary business: making products and selling services. It is placing policing in the hands of a professional policeman. If, as a result, the recalcitrant potential licensees are brought into line and take FRAND licences (as others have already done) then the seller, purchaser and -- most importantly -- existing licensees all benefit. The benefit to existing licensees comes from the removal of what otherwise is a market advantage for the recalcitrant. If the portfolio isn't just a try-on (and, remember, these were Nokia patents, so they did come from a practising entity), does it not then make sense to pass responsibility for policing the market to someone whose job it is to do that?

Seen in this light, the real objections to the acquisition arise for the same reason that people dislike traffic wardens: because the wardens make them obey the law. I in fact prefer the police analogy because it catches the broader audience. It's not just criminals but also those who want to deal with criminals who distrust the police. The broader short-term consumer interest is bound to dislike policing of recalcitrant licensees since this adds to costs and drives up prices or reduces choice. But a consumer with a long-term outlook would realise that an orderly, well policed market for the fruits of innovation in fact encourages development and drives down average costs of dissemination. 
The enlightened view is therefore to welcome this disposal and hope it is a sign of things to come". 
Bravo, says Merpel: the analogy is a good one. But how contingent is it on the fact that the Nokia is FRAND-friendly? The patent policing function of Sisvel (or any other enforcer) may struggle to curry public favour in technologies or for portfolios where FRAND licensing, and therefore fair and easy access to the patented technology, is not an option.

Emailing the IPKat all the way from the UK Intellectual Property Office is Matthew Navarra, who is bubbling with enthusiasm to tell Kats and other creatures about the IPO's burgeoning list of forthcoming events. So many and varied are these events that there's no way this weblog can list them all, but if you are interested in seeing what's coming up, this is where to look.

The IPKat thanks his friend Zuzana Hecko (Allen & Overy Bratislava, s.r.o.) for drawing his attention to the following very recently European Commission studies on trade secrets and parasitic copying. The Kat hasn't yet had a chance to read his way through all of this yet, and hopes that one of his kind readers might nobly sacrifice a few precious hours to provide a neat summary:
13.01.2012Study on Trade Secrets and Parasitic Copying (Look-alikes)
Monday miscellany Part 2 Monday miscellany Part 2 Reviewed by Jeremy on Monday, January 16, 2012 Rating: 5


  1. Thank you for your interest in the Reports from the Studies that we conducted for the European Commission on Trade Secrets and Parasitic Copying.

    Brief Summaries of the Reports are available at

  2. With the greatest respect to those who wrote it, I do not think that the first questionnaire (on trade secrets) was put together with sufficient care.

    Question 1 says:

    "Does the legislation of your Member State provide specific provisions on the protection of trade secrets?"

    To which the UK gave the answer "no".

    Question 3 says:

    "If the law of your Member State does not provide specific provisions on the protection of trade secrets please:"

    Clearly whoever wrote the questionnaire thought that "legislation" and "law" are the same thing. They aren't.


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