Patents, Podcasts, and another word that starts with P

Pistachios?

Patenting Humans

National Geographic got the scoop that 1/5 of human genes have been patented. Some people think that patenting genes is a gross overstretching of patent laws. People in the bio-chemical and drug industries don’t, considering the huge invesetments it took to find what these genes do in the first place. I’m somewhere in-between. If these companies are taking active steps to solve these genetic issues, then let them patent away and fix these problems. If not, then there’s no reason to offer the patent, is there?

I like to imagine that someday somebody with a genetic disease that has been patented sues one of those companies claiming prior art. "Yes, your honor. I have Type I Diabetes, have had it for 50 years, and those people think they invented it five years ago." Heh..

But even moreso, I remember something that happened to the OpenGL board… (OpenGL is a 3D programming language.) Microsoft claimed that they had patents on certain 3D rendering technologies that were going to be incorporated into OpenGL. Rather than extort the other board members for money, MS said that they’d licence the patents as long as other OpenGL board members would recipricate. About a year later, MS quit the OpenGL board claiming (rightfully) that OpenGL was moving too slow for them without explicitly saying that.

To this day, I still think that an all-out patent war could break out in the computer graphics world. Or better yet, a new computer graphics company could come along, then all the other patent holders could sue them out of existance before they even produce a piece of silicon. And then I think the same thing could happen with this human gene patenting thing. I really don’t like that thought at all…

By the way, if you want a different look into the world of patents, check out The Patent Files by David Lindsay. It’s a great book, and you can join in his adventure while he describes his failed patent attempts including patenting himself. (No, his parents didn’t claim prior art on his DNA.)

Chip This!

The Australian Supreme Court ruled that modding your PlayStation 2 console is totally legal, throwing another curve into the question of, "Do you control it if you own it?" Modding or chipping your PS2 is often used when people want to play illegal copies of games, even though it does have some legal uses like running home-brew software. In the UK, chipping your console is illegal. In the US, nobody has tested it in court. Yay conflicting rulings! I’m certain this will be resolved by WIPO in the near future to the detriment of chippers everywhere. In the mean time, start stockpiling those chips. If you’ve ever wanted to become a black market entrepreneuer, let me tell you about your future in the mod chipping market…

Adopt This!

According to USA Today, 29% of US households are first adopters of new technologies. After I stopped laughing, I checked their graphic which shows that large and tech cities are most likely to have the highest proportion of first adopters. (If someone has the skills, I’d love to see that chart correlated with the 2004 election results by county.)

What’s a good measure for determining first adopters? USA Today chose wireless Internet and TiVo which shows why they got 29%. By comparison, a Yahoo survey showed that 28% of Internet users (presumably Yahoo users) know what a podcast is, and 2% actually listen to them. Two percent of US Internet users is about 4 million Americans. This oddly correlates to a Pew survey (those badasses of surveydom) that said 11% of Americans have MP3 players and 29% of those have "downloaded a podcast or Internet radio program," which comes out to about 6 million Americans. Podcasting is probably a better measure of "first adoption" but I guess that eluded USA Today.

By the way, I’m still not convinced about the longevity of podcasting — at least not until more than 11% of Americans get MP3 players. And computers. And Internet service. And given the price of gas these days, I think that may be a while.

Gimme gimme gimme!

Everyone wants in the profits from an iPod — from hardware to downloads. Now five Hollywood unions, including the Screen Actors Guild, are calling for a bigger cut of the iPod Video royalties pie. I’m sure this is partly because they’re pissed about the deal they got over DVD royalties. (Look for an article about "DVD Sales Figures Turn Every Film Into a Mystery" in the LA Times.) Funny… Apple has about 75% of the music sales in the market but a smaller percent of the hardware market. (iPods are big in the US, Japan and UK and that’s about it.) You might think that it’s in everyone’s best interest to diversify — make some new video download services — but to me, I just like the visions of vultures flying over the carcass of Apple… Or is that Apple flying over the carcasses of the entertainment industry? Who knows…

MS shows the future

The Daily Princetonian has an insightful interview with Bill Gates — insightful in the sense that it shows what Bill is thinking. Take a close look at his comments about Blu-Ray and Apple for a peek at what MS and the entertainment industry have in store for us. And make sure you read what he has to say about drug pricing. Right on, Bill. Right on…

Oh my god… Did I just agree with Bill Gates? Fuck… Is the enemy of my enemy my friend?

Google’s Master Plan, the next phase

Google updated their privacy policy earlier in October. As if to confirm my suspicion after I saw their WiFi privacy policy, the new policy clearly shows that Google is collecting info about you across their varied services. First, I want to know how I can opt out of Google’s information collection. Don’t I get a choice about whether or not my Google use is recorded? Second (and this is a compliment), I’m glad that they’re being honest about what they’re doing. Now if every web site was as blatantly up front with their privacy policy, I’d be a lot happier.

iPod Video is officially not the next big thing

The porn industry is the bellweather of new technologies. If the porn industry likes it, you can be certain the that technology has a bright future. They were way ahead on VHS, DVD, and the Internet — so far ahead that when those technologies came into the mainstream, a bountiful supply of porn was there waiting for us. And I personally want to thank them for their foresight.

But not the iPod video. Wired says that the porn industry is staying away from the iPod video. This is an absolutely clear sign that the iPod video has a dark future. And quite frankly, I couldn’t be happier.

By the way, if you want a tip, I hear that mobile phone porn is gonna be huge.

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