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The Politicization Of The US Patent System

The Washington Post story, How patent reform’s fraught politics have left USPTO still without a boss (July 30), is a vivid account of how patent reform has divided the US economy, preempting a possible replacement for David Kappos who stepped down 18 months ago. The division is even bigger than portrayed. Universities have lined up en masse to oppose reform, while main street businesses that merely use technology argue for reform. Reminiscent of the partisan divide that has paralyzed US politics, this struggle crosses party lines and extends well beyond the usual inter-industry debates. Framed in terms of combating patent trolls through technical legal fixes, there lurks a broader economic concern – to what extent ordinary retailers, bank, restaurants, local banks, motels, realtors, and travel agents should bear the burden of defending against patents as a cost of doing business.


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    中国防火长城:网络审查何时会违反世贸组织规则?

    Published on 2 August 2010 @ 12:41 pm

    By for Intellectual Property Watch

    中国政府认为自己的行动符合其公民的最佳利益。它正在规范互联网,以保护其人民不受色情和其他令人生厌内容的危害。然而,批评者声称,中国大幅限制大陆居民可以网上观看、听闻和言论的东西,因此犯了审查过分之过。

    2008年,欧洲议会以571对38票的绝对优势投票结果声明网络审查是一项贸易壁垒。欧洲委员会副主席内莉•克鲁伊(Neelie Kroes)于今年5月公开声明,因为中国所谓的“防火长城”妨碍了信息的自由流动,因而这是一个“需要在世贸组织内处理的”贸易壁垒。

    美国尚未在该问题上采取立场。美国贸易代表正在研究这件事。但是,一方面代表自由言论的各种组织倡导, 而另一方面技术业界也正大力游说美国在世贸组织就中国的网络审查提出一项指控。技术业界的重量级角色,其中谷歌最为著名,支持这一努力。

    尽管如此,美国或者欧盟是否将会就该问题把中国拖到世贸组织告状仍不明确。中国网络审查是否违反世贸组织规则,就此仍存疑问。即便中国违反规则,专家们对于把问题提交世贸组织是否是改变中国行为的最佳途径也存在异议。

    中国拥有世界上最大数量的互联网用户,差不多有4亿,而且这一数字仍在增长。设在纽约的电子市场研究有限公司(Emarketer Inc.)的研究认为,到2013年可能将有8.4亿中国人上网。

    但是,绝大多数人中国人没有全面应用互联网的渠道。一个政府授权设置的防火墙限制了中国大陆居民访问中国境外互联网址,政府一系列法规对哪些内容可以在中国通过防火墙或上网做出了限制。色情内容被禁绝,同样遭禁的还有政府发现在政治上不舒服的信息,包括关于法轮功、达赖喇嘛或天安门屠杀事件的信息。

    想在中国经商的互联网公司必须遵守政府的各种限制,但是很多西方公司在满足政府审查方面已经碰上了麻烦。例如,西方的社交流行网站诸如Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr等都被中国的防火墙堵在国门之外,因为中国政府担心这些服务商会让个人自由共享信息。谷歌在中国停止审查其搜寻结果之后,该公司被迫大幅缩减在中国大陆的经营,并发现政府不断阻截搜寻结果和谷歌各种不同的服务。

    当西方公司在中国挣扎度日之际,中国内地的网络公司却茁壮成长。例如,百度已经占据了64%的搜寻引擎市场,2009年赚了44.5元(6.63亿美元)。YouTube的中国当地竞争对手优酷网是中国最大的网上录像共享网址,2009年共赚了2亿元(2930万美元),而且业绩今年有望超过100%。腾讯经营着好几个成功的网络业务,包括中国最大的实时传讯(IM)服务,拥有5.68亿个活跃账户。该公司在2009年赚了124亿元(18.3亿美元)。

    世贸组织规则并不禁止审查本身。恰恰相反,《服务贸易总协定》[pdf] 第XIV条规定,公约中没有任何条款阻止成员国采取措施“保护公共道德或维持公共秩序”。

    但是,一些人辩称,中国的网络审查超越了这一免责条款所允许的范围。“当中国规范色情时,很明显,这符合该免责条款。当该国过滤有关人权的信息时,要说这符合该条款就要困难得多了,”在布鲁克林法学院(Brooklyn Law School)教授网络法的德瑞克•保姆保尔(Derek Bambauer)说道。

    《服务贸易总协定》第XIV条的一个脚注写到:“只有当一项社会基本利益遭到一种真正和足够严重的威胁时,才可以引用公共秩序的例外条款。”保姆保尔说道,“很难说一党专制是一项社会基本利益的观点会令人信服。”

    即便免责条款适用于中国的网络审查,如果此类审查执行中对外国公司构成了歧视,该审查也会违反世贸组织规则。“如果你提出审查是一项贸易壁垒的论点,你就必须论证审查在执行时是不平等的,”即将上任位于华盛顿特区的乔治华盛顿大学商学院院长职务的道格•古斯瑞(Doug Guthrie)说道。

    他认为中国没有歧视。他说,“中国的防火墙适用于任何人。”

    有些人持有异议。“理论上讲,防火墙是非歧视性的,但是它的执行效果是歧视性的。其影响就是给予中国当地公司一种不公平的优势,使其能够获得客户。这就变成不利于竞争的了,”福克斯罗斯启德律师事务所(Fox Rothschild LLP)的一个合伙人马尔考姆•S.•麦克尼尔(Malcolm S. McNeil)说道。

    审查规则对中国的国内外公司可能都是一样的,但是外国公司要具体了解这些规则可能很难。“有十几个部门颁布的规定,但许多规定很模糊,”保姆保尔说。“例如,规定要求各公司不要有威胁国家安全的行为。”但规定没有界定国家安全威胁是什么。“政府官员对未定事项权宜决定,”保姆保尔说。

    对模糊标准,中国官员并不给出明确、正式的解释。“你在会见官员时就有这一感觉。你得到的答案莫衷一是,”麦克尼尔说。

    一些专家认为,这种迷宫式的模糊审查标准有利于当地人。“中国公司运营起来比较容易,因为他们知道与谁联系来获得[有关禁止事项]的答案,而外国公司不知道敲谁家的门,”保姆保尔说。

    很多专家认为,中国的网络审查是否违反世贸组织规则是一个见仁见智的问题。“很显然,中国的互联网审查是一个伤害到西方软件和互联网公司的贸易壁垒,但问题在于它是否是一个违反世贸组织规则的贸易壁垒。世贸组织禁止大部分但并没有禁止所有的贸易壁垒,而中国的审查措施属于灰色地带,”豪根劳威尔斯律师事务所(Hogan Lovells)合伙人和美国贸易代表办公室前法律总监沃伦•马儒亚玛(Warren Maruyama)说道。

    如果此事拿到世贸组织,要获得一项终局裁决需要花数年时间。与中国进行谈判既可以不会那么对峙,同时或许更快解决问题。

    当然,美国好像更愿意谈判。美国贸易代表科克(Ron Kirk)于三月表示,努力通过双边解决这一问题“比在世贸组织走一条可能打二、三、四年法律官司的不确定之路要好得多。”

    然而,一些专家声称,在世贸组织提出诉讼对于解决这一争议非常关键。“除非你在世贸组织采取行动,中国的高级官员不会反应。谈判将无休无止,”麦克尼尔说。“这就是为何我们必须(在世贸组织)采取行动。我们在谈判过程中需要这一步。”

     


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