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CCC Blog has posted a new item, 'Video from Thursday's Big Data R&D Initiative Launch Posted'
Excerpt: As we've covered extensively, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), together with six Federal agencies, rolled out the Big Data Initiative on Thursday afternoon, providing $200 million in funding to improve our ability to extract knowledge and insights from large and complex collections of digital data. Highlights included a $25 million solicitation supporting foundational research, including core techniques and technologies, spanning all directorates and offices within the National Science Foundation (NSF) and 7 institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH); a $250 million "Data to Decisions" investment by the Department of Defense's (DoD) Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering [ASD(R&E)], constituting a major push in data to decision, autonomy, and human systems; and a $25 million XDATA program by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop computational techniques and software tools for processing and analyzing the vast amount of mission-oriented information for Defense activities.
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Patent Pirates vs. Patent Trolls
I've seen what happens when a patent thief steals from the public domain. Innocent victims like myself, who put their patentable ideas into the public domain, find their ideas stolen and put into somebody's pocket. I invented the idea of putting a web browser and web pages onto a CDROM and shipping the CDROM as a cache. I didn't patent the idea.
Somebody else did, though. They sold that idea to a set of patent trolls who then proceeded to demand a toll from everyone crossing "their" bridge. This included folks like Symantec and Electronic Arts.
I'm sorry, but in order to not be a patent troll, first you have to invent something that wasn't invented before. Unfortunately, the US Patent and Trademark Office has very little incentive to say "sorry, you can keep your money because your idea has already been invented." Much easier and profitable for them to simply take people's money and let them steal from the public domain. For example, the current standard for "invention" is "anything not already patented". They don't do a search for prior art anymore. They only search their own database of patents, and if somebody hasn't already patented the idea, then it must be patentable.
Similarly, the concept of "obviousness" is no longer applicable. The English patent system didn't have this concept, and somebody patented the crank. So for the life of that patent, people had to invent all sorts of monkey-motion devices to convert between rotary motion and linear motion. Right now, in the US, nothing is ever too obvious to patent. You don't even need to prove to the USPTO that your invention is functional. It may rely on technology which doesn't exist yet -- but when it does, you'll have a valid patent on your improvement to that idea.
I must note that this isn't particularly the USPTO's fault. The public benefits from an effective patent system which keeps public ideas public and yet protects actual inventions. Yet the USPTO isn't given sufficient public funding to pursue that mission.
It's possible that the members of the Professional Inventors Alliance are actual inventors of new devices. However, given the quality of patents being issued today, mere ownership of a patent is not proof of having invented anything. It's just as likely to be a bill of sale for a device that "fell off the back of a truck." From my perspective as a victim, the Professional Inventors Alliance looks more like a Professional Burglars Alliance. If Ronald Riley wants more respect for his organization, he should be in favor of making the US patent system more respectable. Patent reform should be his golden child, not his bastard stepson.
This is a company protecting their assets (software) from reverseengineering and modification to run on hardware which they do not support....
Oh NO! Have we really come this far? So quickly?!
Is someone really ACCEPTING that reverse engineering should be prohibited?! (That is, someone other than massive corporations' thought-monopoly patent attorneys.)
While a tech columnist in the late '80's, I received a "back-channel" copy of a "radical" proposal by IBM, "secretly" outlining how they might go about quietly getting WIPO to -- for the first time in history -- outlaw reverse engineering. At the time, it was considered a wildly radical idea.
(The World Intellectual Property Organization is the unelected UN agency that "harmonizes" i.p. law between nations, administering more'n 20 international i.p. treaties, to assure equal repression for all.)
Hell, it's only been a bit more'n 20 years since software was even first deemed patentable!
In the 40-or-so years before that, such monopolies were NOT permitted. Which didn't seem to harm the likes of IBM, AT&T, Bell Labs, Digital Equipment, H-P nor any of the other companies that grew fat and rich offering products including software that was NOT patentable. That notably included the first ten years or so, of both Apple and Microsoft (which got its start in operating systems using a reverse-engineered version of the then-most-popular CP/M operating system ... which, itself, was modeled after Digital's old TOPS-10 OS).
And in fact, ALL of those companies happily and routinely reverse-engineered competitors' products -- fueling innovation and speeding improvements, for the benefit of all. But now ... we see folks not just accepting the repression of software patents. NOW we see 'em even just ASSUMING that reverse engineering SHOULD be prohibited!
Sheesh! If we still had spring-driven mechanical clocks, no doubt their manufacturers would now zealously sue any time someone offered instructions about how to open their "proprietary" clock-cases, much less offering guidance as to their detailed operation! And I certainly hope that no one ever dares to disassemble their bicycle, to see how its gearing works! -- jim warren @justjim36
Jim Warren, open-govt & tech-civlib advocate & sometime columnist
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India hits back in 'bio-piracy' battle In a quiet government office in the Indian capital, Delhi, some 100 doctors are hunched over computers poring over ancient medical texts and keying in information.
These doctors are practitioners of ayurveda, unani and siddha, ancient Indian medical systems that date back thousands of years.
One of them is Jaya Saklani Kala, a young ayurveda doctor, who is wading through a dog-eared 500-year-old text book for information on a medicine derived from the mango fruit.
"Soon the world will know the medicine, and the fact that it originated from India," she says.
With help from software engineers and patent examiners, Ms Kala and her colleagues are putting together a 30-million-page electronic encyclopaedia of India's traditional medical knowledge, the first of its kind in the world.
The ambitious $2m project, christened Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, will roll out an encyclopaedia of the country's traditional medicine in five languages - English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish - in an effort to stop people from claiming them as their own and patenting them. The electronic encyclopaedia, which will be made available next year, will contain information on the traditional medicines, including exhaustive references, photographs of the plants and scans from the original texts. Indian scientists say the country has been a victim of what they describe as "bio-piracy" for a long time. "When we put out this encyclopaedia in the public domain, no one will be able to claim that these medicines or therapies are their inventions. Till now, we have not done the needful to protect our traditional wealth," says Ajay Dua, a senior bureaucrat in the federal commerce ministry. Putting together the encyclopaedia is a daunting task.
For one, ayurvedic texts are in Sanskrit and Hindi, unani texts are in Arabic and Persian and siddha material is in Tamil language. Material from these texts is being translated into five international languages, using sophisticated software coding.
The sheer wealth of material that has to be read through for information is enormous - there are some 54 authoritative 'text books' on ayurveda alone, some thousands of years old.
People outside India are not aware of our immense traditional knowledge wealth VK Gupta, project director
Then there are nearly 150,000 recorded ayurvedic, unani and siddha medicines; and some 1,500 asanas (physical exercises and postures) in yoga, which originated in India more than 5,000 years ago. Under normal circumstances, a patent application should always be rejected if there is prior existing knowledge about the product. But in most of the developed nations like United States, "prior existing knowledge" is only recognised if it is published in a journal or is available on a database - not if it has been passed down through generations of oral and folk traditions.
The irony here is that India has suffered even though its traditional knowledge, as in China, has been documented extensively. But information about traditional medicine has never been culled from their texts, translated and put out in the public domain.
No wonder then that India has been embroiled in some high-profile patent litigation in the past decade - the government spent some $6m alone in fighting legal battles against the patenting of turmeric and neem-based medicines.
In 1995, the US Patent Office granted a patent on the wound-healing properties of turmeric.
Indian scientists protested and fought a two-year-long legal battle to get the patent revoked.
Last year, India won a 10-year-long battle at the European Patent Office against a patent granted on an anti-fungal product, derived from neem, by successfully arguing that the medicinal neem tree is part of traditional Indian knowledge. In 1998 the US Patent Office granted patent to a local company for new strains of rice similar to basmati, which has been grown for centuries in the Himalayan foothills of north-west India and Pakistan and has become popular internationally. After a prolonged legal battle, the patent was revoked four years ago.
And, in the US, an expatriate Indian yoga teacher has claimed copyright on a sequence of 36 yoga asanas, or postures. Dr Vinod Kumar Gupta, who is leading the traditional wealth encyclopaedia project and heads India's National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources (Niscair), reckons that of the nearly 5,000 patents given out by the US Patent Office on various medical plants by the year 2000, some 80% were plants of Indian origin. Practitioners of traditional medicines say their importance cannot be denied - according to the WHO, 70% of the people living in India use traditional medicine for primary health care.
Also, some 42% of the people living in the US and 70% of the people living in Canada have used traditional medicines at least once for treatment. By one estimate, a quarter of the new drugs produced in the US are plant-based, giving the sometimes much-criticised practitioners of alternative traditional medicine something to cheer about. The mammoth Indian encyclopaedia may finally give alternative medicine the shot in the arm it sorely needs.