Monthly Archives: March 2010

Trade-war not likely


“Taking a legal case over exchange rate misalignments to the WTO would probably fail, and take years in any case. The only real route left is to unilaterally slap tariffs on Chinese imports to compensate for alleged currency undervaluation. That would be a nuclear option that really could spark the destruction of the postwar world trading system, and it doesn’t look like the US is quite desperate enough for that yet.” Extract from Alan Beattie in the FT – Skirmishes are not all-out trade war

The crash of AF447

As the mystery clears, troubling facts emerge

“After months of investigation, a clear picture has emerged of what went wrong [in the loss of AF447]. The reconstruction of the horrific final four minutes reveal continuing safety problems in civil aviation.” Extract from Death in the Atlantic: der SPIEGEL

Simple deductions about climate change

The UK Met Office (which has been unable to predict British weather recently) now claims to be certain about climate.

“The fingerprint of human influence has been detected in many different aspects of observed climate changes,” said Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring at the Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Research. “Natural variability, from the sun, volcanic eruptions or natural cycles, cannot explain recent warmingExtract from (emphasis added)

This sort of mad assertion—reminscent of the IPCC’s origninal claims that there could be no explanation other than man-made CO2 emissions—makes a claim so broad that it would not be feasible to establish its truth. Some climate scientists may like to pretend that they can detect a cause by simple forensics (‘fingerprints’), but if that is so, let them show us the success of their predictions.

Climate is a complex, chaotic system, whose course has not been modelled successfully despited decades of attempts by well-funded institutions such as NOAA, the Met Office and the CSIRO. Not even one model has successfully accounted for the path of warming since 2000 nor do any of the IPCC models succeed even in backcasting the path of warming before 1990.

In the face of the evident failure of current models to produce confirmed projections, god-like pronouncements such as these beggar credulity.

Apple’s patent protectionism

In an action before the U.S. Federal courts and the International Trade Commission, Apple Inc. is attacking a Taiwanese manufacturer of Google’s Android Phone for alleged abuseof 20 software patents. It seems the suits are aimed at slowing the growth of competition for the iPhone and, possibly, aimed at Google’s proposed web operating system.

The prosecution of software patents, especially those for ‘user interface innovations’, is a dubious action at best that is sometimes (often? usually?) an abuse of market-competition principles. Worse, in this case, Apple has chosen to pursue it’s competitors under the notorious, protectionist, S.337 of the US Trade Act of 1930 which does not provide damages for infringement of patent rights but prohibits imports of goods likely to infringe a U.S. patent.

Section 337 of the US Trade Act (1930) was the subject of a well-known GATT complaint brought by the European Communities against the USA in 1998. The Panel Report, adopted by the GATT Contracting Parties, concluded:

…that Section 337 of the United States Tariff Act of 1930 is inconsistent with Article III:4 [of GATT], in that it accords to imported products challenged as infringing United States patents treatment less favourable than the treatment accorded to products of United States origin similarly challenged, and that these inconsistencies cannot be justified in all respects under Article XX(d).

The GATT Panel recommended that Member governments ask the USA to amend it’s legislation to bring it back into conformity with the GATT. But this was the middle of the Uruguay Round of negotiations, focussing on the TRIPS negotiations on intellectual property. The USA took no action as recommended by the Panel. Finally, in 2000 the EC again requested consultations with the USA over S.337, now citing its concerns about incompatibility with the TRIPS Agreement…but, again, there has been no action by the USA.

The Apple commentariat, is unhappy about the idea of protecting software patents to consolidate what is, already, a dominant postion for Apple in the phone market. Here are two pretty big guns from that world, blasting Apple with both barrels.

” Whatever benefit in the market Apple hopes to achieve by this suit to me seems likely to be worth far less than the loss of good will and prestige Apple will suffer if they vigorously pursue this case (let alone if they initiate more such suits).” Extract from John Gruber: This Apple-HTC Patent Thing
“But when you sue someone for doing something you do yourself, you become one of the bad guys. Can you name a company you admire that spends its time enforcing patents, instead of innovating? Remember the pirate flag you flew over Apple’s headquarters when you were building the Mac? Is Apple part of the Navy now?” Extract from Will Shipley: An Open Letter to Steve Jobs Concerning the HTC Lawsuits.