Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Hankyoreh makes an interesting admission

In todays Hankyoreh, an unsigned editorial appears on the the Korean-EU FTA talks now going on. They Hani, being Korea's unmistakable lefty paper, gives a line with an interesting implication:

A trade deal would mean more than just an increase in physical goods. EU companies could be expected to enjoy a big increase in earnings through changes like stronger intellectual copyright protections. For example, blocking the circulation of pirated products would allow European companies to maximize the value of their competitive products. The European Union is demanding that "items that potentially infringe on intellectual property rights" be prevented from clearing customs altogether.

So is the Hani saying that not only are pirated goods widely trafficked in Korea, but such trafficking is a staple of the economy?

Of course the larger issue in a way is the continued mindset that foreigners are "forcing" the issue on Korea. Its interesting on how the Hani totally misses the fact that Korean law already allows for ""items that potentially infringe on intellectual property rights" be prevented from clearing customs altogether". All the rights holders have to do is call the customs service.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

LG plays the victim card on Hitatchi

Again, I am a bit late in posting this, but LG recently sued Hitachi in response to the Japanese firm's original suit in April. What caught my eye is a line that would make just about any expat groan:

"Japanese firms are filing more and more lawsuits as competition in the global display market increases dramatically," Lee Jeong-hwan, manager of LG's intellectual property centre, told the Korea Herald.

Once again Korea are under attack from the Japanese. Cheap move LG, cheap.

To make it even worse is this rather quizzical report in the Joong-ang Ilbo via Yonhap:

The fact Hitachi sued first leads me to believe that they are the ones who value their patents more highly. Yet note the question from the Korean press (and perhaps LG) is not "IF" they will receive compensation from Hitachi, but "HOW MUCH". This is just too rich.

LG and Microsoft Linux Deal - Who is Microconnect

I know I am late in getting to this, but I wanted to a bit of research first.

Last month LG Electronics and Microsoft inked a cross-licensing deal. Most of the press about the Linux provisions that LG agreed to. However a couple things caught my attention. First from Information Week:

Specific financial terms of the cross-licensing pact weren't disclosed, but Microsoft said the arrangement calls for it to make "net balancing" payments to LG. That implies that the two companies have agreed that the technology to which Microsoft gains access is more valuable than the Microsoft technology claimed to be part of Linux.

What set me off was this line in the local Jooang-ang Ilbo:

Microsoft will have access to LG Electronics patents and will license other patents developed by LG that are now owned by the business solutions provider MicroConnect Group.

That lead me to the question, "Who is MicroConnect?" The original press release has a quote from an Alan Loudermilk, who is cited as the president of MicroConnect. This lead to a Google spree which dug up details (the candor of some of them a bit disturbing to me). Loudermilk is listed as an inventor a number of patents, but also as an patent agent or attorney.

Which leads to a set of questions of the nature of MicroConnect. Given today's IP climate, this facet makes me wonder if it was LG that had Microsoft over a barrel, and not the other way around.

North Korea finds IP a source of hard cash

As I get to my news backlog, the first thing that pops out is a Hankyoreh story of an album of North Korean songs now being sold in South Korea, with royalties going to the North:

Produced jointly by an organization promoting economic exchange with Pyongyang and UB Entertainment, the album includes renditions by ten South Korean artists, including Vibe, Maya, Bae Seulgi, and Baby Box Rev. It will be titled Dongin and is set to be released June 7...

North Korea's copyright agency is a new office created under the direct supervision of its cabinet. The organization that jointly produced the album is headed by Uri Party member of the National Assembly Im Jong-seok and received exclusive authority for dealing with North Korean copyright issues in South Korea in 2005.

I am not to sure how pioneering this is, given the history here. About two years ago a North Korean agency sued in a Seoul court to obtain royalties for unauthorized publication of a North Korean work. Of course it should be noted that the likelihood the royalties in any of these cases will make it to the hands of the artist. All it really amounts to is a hard cash grab on the part of North Korea.

Of course this may raise some interesting legal questions if anybody wants to press the issue. On one hand, if the North, and its IP, is recognized as a legal entity owing IP in South Korea, could a third party sue the North in a South Korean court for IP infringement. 

Moreover if anybody wanted to be really cheeky, a couple years ago the Korean teachers union put out a book which was proven to be copied North Korean propaganda, and such publication was probably not authorized (I believe such would be tantamount to violating the South's security laws). Anybody want to put the teachers union an embarrassing position?