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Fri 13 Jun 2003

IP is for Intellectual Property

Category : Technology

Yezdi from Mean (and MUGS) pointed out that The Open Group is suing Apple for trademark violation - for using the term Unix in conjunction with its Mac OS X operating system without a license.

This follows in the wake of a couple of other Unix-related law suits. "SCO and Novell are sparring over the extent of SCO's ownership of Unix, while SCO and IBM are embroiled in a trade-secrets lawsuit," reports Silicon.com.

While we're wondering just what SCO and The Open Group have done for Unix lately (they both claim ownership of Unix but just what do they own?), Microsoft is sneaking into cable TV, hoping to create a "standard" for Interactive TV that will choke off access points for everyone else.

Some questions. Why is Unix so hot all of a sudden? What are they fighting about? And why? Anyone can see that only one party outside the fray will benefit when the dust settles, if it ever?

Something's afoot. The issues are complex. This is a portent of things to come. If you're in any way connected with information technology, you must read Lawrence Lessig's "The Future of Ideas. It's a serious book because it deals with serious things. Lessig believes that the spirit of cooperation that gave rise to the amazing richness of the Internet is coming under threat as the incumbent powers start to fight back - by grabbing control of the "standards" through legislation - and they're able to do it because the issues are too complex for the legislators to follow.

Thus he's written the book to map out the issues, starting from a historical perspective to remind the reader of the assumptions made when copyright law was first being framed. From there, he picks his way through the ensuing developments, highlighting the subtleties in the arguments made in our latter day. He believes that it is important to be educated about the issues because the efforts made by incumbent stakeholders to control the initiative could stifle the innovation that made the Internet so rich in the first place.

If you don't believe that, try imagining Apple's Avie Tevanian submitting OS X through The Open Group (who are they anyway?)'s certification process. "You've got to take Rendezvous out because there is no such thing as Rendezvous in Unix". If you've ever gone through a corporate ISO 9000 certification exercise, you'll have a better frame of reference. Try imagining how enthused the Apple guys are going to be. If you can do that, you must be dreaming.

Click on the Creative Commons logo on the left sidebar and you'll be able to reach Lawrence Lessig's weblog with just two more clicks. Quiz: what is the connection? Do the exercise to find out.

Posted at 3:02PM SGT | permalink


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