The discussion of increasingly draconian intellectual property laws isn’t exact new at Third Pipe. Manipulation of the political process, bureaucracies and the courts has created a whole new class of oligarchies in our society. It’s one of the foremost reasons why it’s all but impossible for a new competitor to enter mature, research intensive businesses. Governmental grants of exclusive rights to common design elements that have existed for ages like Apple’s newly patented slide to unlock function have perverted intellectual property law to erect overwhelming barriers to any worthy rival interested in competing.
Even crushing barriers can inspire human ingenuity. As lawyers and Oligarchs continued to manipulate law to squelch outsiders. a few freedom loving rebels established the open source movement. When there’s no profit from intellectual property alone and no owner of that property, patent trolling becomes difficult if not impossible. This frees creative people to innovate with impunity with larger communities of contributors that enrich the process. That’s likely why most successful software startups founded in the last decade have managed an open source product rather than a commercial one. That trend is rapidly moving into hardware, with new projects beginning to challenge closed architecture products. Commodity manufacturers are likely to continue to produce more products using open source technology due to reduced R&D costs and faster time to market.
This takes us to the world of pharmaceutical development. Big Pharma is a dominant yet seldom mentioned player in big push to criminalize the free exchange of information and technology via new patent laws. Like the entertainment industry, the drug peddlers have become flat, bloated and stagnant. Industry consolidation forced by laws that unfairly favor the establishment has stifled innovation leaving it without promising new products in the pipeline. Many of the most profitable (and expensive) drugs are going out of patent in the near future freeing them to be produced by rivals and sold for pennies. The likely passage of new laws to extend patents will only bring more stagnation. Fortunately, a few industry rebels are embracing the open source movement:
When Tomasz Sablinski was working in pharmaceutical R&D, he was often frustrated by the demand for secrecy in the clinical trials process—a misdirected effort, he says, to keep competitors in the dark about what drug companies were up to. “The price you pay when you hide what you’re doing is you only get feedback from a precious few people,” he says. “There is very little new blood in the ideation process.”
Then Sablinski read an article about the open-source operating system Linux and he had an epiphany. “If said, ‘If computer coders can do open source, so can drug developers,’” he recalls. “You have to add patients to the mix, because they’re really the reason you’re doing drug development.” (more at Xconomy)
This is worth watching…. and supporting. If the likely roadblocks that Big Pharma’s cronies at the FDA can be overcome. we could see real breakthroughs in the drug business. Not just from the application of fresh new ideas. Open Source means many sources for the final product with good, healthy competition. That could bring a real breakthrough in healthcare by doing an end run around the political and industry establishment that has kept prices high and innovation low.
It’s no secret that the Telcos have major pull in Congress. Review any representative’s list of top campaign donors and you are more likely then not to find them at the top. It’s also no secret that AT&T and Verizon see a perfect world where they control all of the public airwaves. We’ve heard endless hand ringing in Congress about how bad wireless service is directly connected to too little spectrum in the control of carriers.
What they don’t mention is as much as half of the licensed spectrum in held major markets by the top two carriers isn’t even being used. There’s also no mention of repurposing any of that fallow spectrum for broadband like is being proposed for broadcast bands. Even if spectrum was lacking, increasing tower density can overcome virtually all capacity problems. None of this makes much sense unless we understand that the real issue isn’t the need for more spectrum to provide better service. It’s to gain control of the wireless last mile and effectively end competition.
Acting in the public interest to facilitate better service is not what this debate is about. After gaining control of more than half of the fixed line right of ways to the last mile, the two major telco’s slowed infrastructure improvements to a snails pace. That’s created an America with substandard broadband at some of the highest prices in the world. They have the same plan for wireless. By controlling all of the spectrum and consolidating into two companies, the non competitive broadband duopoly will be extended into the wireless space.
The House of Representatives wants to take control of spectrum auctions. They want us to believe that the FCC is acting to slowly to resolve that the completely fabricated “spectrum crisis”. According to former FCC chair Reed Hundt, the bill would end competition: (more…)
While Microsoft isn’t exactly hurting, the company has had very mixed success entering new markets for some time. In fact, without the OS and Office cash cows, it’s failures would have torpedoed most companies. One thing Ballmer and company do seem to have is tenacity. That tenacity can be seen in action with Windows Phone.
Windows Phone is a well executed smart handset platform that came to market a little to late. It’s also lacks any real advantage over the established Apple and Android platforms. Add to that the obstacle a its licensing fee and there’s not much to make Windows Phone compelling to potential manufacturing partners. That gives Android a price advantage while Apple holds the overpriced designer label space. Microsoft has tried to remove that disadvantage by patent trolling Android manufacturers, with mixed success. There are also rumors that the company could acquire the ailing Nokia, likely giving Windows Phone a stable hardware partner. None of this will open any shelf space for MS as long as devices are joined at the hip to service plans that are sold exclusively by carriers.
That brings us to Skype. The VoIP company that Ebay notoriously overpaid for, was acquired for far less by Microsoft last year.The company is currently testing an app that will add the mostly free to talk service to Windows Phone 8. Tight integration of Skype into the Windows Phone OS has the potential to accelerate the end of by the minute mobile voice plans forever. That is assuming the carriers cooperate. While the mobile hardware space continues to become more crowded, the carrier space is not with incumbents scrambling to consolidate. Despite what we keep being told, mobile data is enormously profitable. That profitability is eclipsed by the margins on voice by the minute and messaging. Without major changes in the wireless connection business, Skype will do nothing to improve Windows Phone’s fortunes. (more…)
While they folded under public pressure to table SOPA and ProtectIP, most of Congress and the Obama administration are on board with the ACTA treaty. Currently being negotiated, this radioactive attack on the free and open Internet also puts individual liberty, the right to due process and the very existence any sovereign nation in the crosshairs.
Even if the president goes rogue and signs (which is likely). ACTA cannot be legally enacted without ratification by the Senate and passing constitutional muster in the courts. Neither the Senate or the courts will act in our interest without a public outcry. The war has just begun, and our freedom is at stake. Please write your representatives.