Open Tech Today - Top Stories

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Does Interoperability Require an IP Discussion?

According to Microsoft, yes. According to Red Hat, no. Microsoft and Red Hat -- oil and water -- and they don't mix, as recent discussions have shown. End of story right? Not necessarily ...

Interoperability and intellectual property are entirely different. Interoperability is about enabling things to work together, more at a "mechanical" level. IPR is about ownership of things and conditions on the right to use them.

Interoperability is also not about open vs. closed. Both open and proprietary technologies can be designed to interoperate.

You can design an application to work seamlessly with other apps without giving up your ownership of it.

Although interoperability and intellectual property are fundamentally different animals, they live in the same jungle. Interoperability does not undercut IPR, but IPR can impede interoperability. For example, an IP owner can set conditions on use of its patented technology that prevents development of a plug-in enabling it to work with other applications.

The result: users have an interoperability problem. However, it is an artificial problem created by technology vendors -- not the user or the engineering of interoperability itself. It is not a problem intrinsic to interoperability, but rather linked to the business models of the vendors discussing it.

The question for vendors is: which is more important?

Categories: interoperability, IPR

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