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Where technology marketers could at one time predict what was going to happen in Europe today simply by looking at what happened in the U.S. 18 months ago, then add different measures of additional months for other global markets, today they actually have to do some real work to understand the international scene.

The U.S. fell way behind most of Europe and much of Asia in wireless adaptation and usage, for example, some years ago. With organizations such as RIM and Eclipse.org spreading their message from bases in Canada, the U.S. is hardly the unchallenged innovation leader in North America these days, either. (Insert gratuitous hockey joke here.)

Indian technology parks, Chinese search, technology corridors in faraway lands such as Malaysia, Brazil, and France, and scattered hotspots from Bulgaria to the Philippines all demonstrate that the our sphere is becoming ever more well-rounded when it comes to technological innovation.

This global technology pool, fed by myriad streams, can make for some tough sailing. Take the recent European Parliament vote against new software patent law. Thought to be a close call until the eve of the vote, the measure lost overwhelmingly when the tide turned due to intense lobbying from European open-source advocates in alliance with political Greens across the Continent.

Or so it may have seemed. Was this just a simple open source vs. proprietary debate? Is there such a thing as a simple open source vs. proprietary debate? The measure's opponents said they feared the power of large, proprietary companies to blow smaller companies out of the water through sophisticated patent strategies rather than by pure innovation.

Most of the companies that would fall into this class today would seem to be the large, American technology companies. So this vote was probably an anti-U.S. vote, right? If so, it would come as no big surprise. Yet at least one large, proprietary, American technology company, Sun Microsystems, hailed the defeat as well.

This leads to the idea that the whole brouhaha has to do with stopping the one very large, proprietary, American technology company based in Redmond, Washington. Yet this company certainly has its own troubles these days, with a long-delayed Longhorn operating system, a recent propensity to step in it with respect to political matters, and unquestioned non-leadership in search, the most dynamic software market today.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., open-source leaders are calling for existing patent and trademark law to be rewritten. In an era when intellectual property is replacing internet protocol as the de facto owner of the acronym IP, companies of any size should be shuddering at this thought.

Sure, anyone who has ever filed with the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) in the U.S. is quite aware that the office is understaffed, pedantically process-oriented, and often uncomprehending. But who, then, should decide how to allocate and enforce intellectual property rights? Should this be put through some sort of oligarchic process? Should there be some sort of peer review?

And what sort of harmonization, to use a Euro-term, should there be to create, enforce, and defend IP rights on a global scale? This is one of the key issues involved in globalization, and it seems commonsensical that a fairly specific, enforceable global patenting and trademarking standard would be in the best interests of technology developers, large and small, in the U.S., the Faeroe Islands, or Mauritania.

It's time for a big sitdown, to see if the technologists of the world can agree to check their politics at the door, even if for a short time, and try to begin to figure out a problem that transcends the day-to-day challenges of application development.

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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News Desk 10/27/05 10:06:30 PM EDT

Where technology marketers could at one time predict what was going to happen in Europe today simply by looking at what happened in the U.S. 18 months ago, then add different measures of additional months for other global markets, today they actually have to do some real work to understand the international scene.

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