Iran leader: Any at­tacks bring re­ply

Pledges re­sponse at ‘same level’

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY NASSER KARIMI AND BRIAN MUR­PHY

TEHRAN | Iran will re­tal­i­ate against any at­tack by Is­raeli or Amer­i­can forces “on the same level,” the Is­lamic repub­lic’s top leader said Tues­day in a de­fi­ant ad­dress just mo­ments af­ter Pres­i­dent Obama ap­pealed di­rectly to the Ira­nian peo­ple with a mes­sage of sol­i­dar­ity.

The con­trast­ing ap­proaches high­lighted the broad range of po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing and tac­tics as the stand­off deep­ens over Tehran’s nu­clear pro­gram.

Iran Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, speak­ing on state TV to mark the Ira­nian new year, re­peated his claims that the coun­try does not seek atomic weapons. But he said all of Iran’s con­ven­tional fire­power was ready to respond to any at­tack.

“We do not have atomic weapons, and we will not build one. But against an at­tack by en­e­mies — to de­fend our­selves ei­ther against the U.S. or Zion­ist regime — we will at­tack them on the same level that they at­tack us,” he said, us­ing the term Ira­nian au­thor­i­ties of­ten use for Is­rael.

De­spite the hard-edged tone for most of the speech, there were hints of over­tures to­ward Amer­ica be­fore a pos­si­ble re­sump­tion of nu­clear talks be­tween Iran and world pow­ers.

He urged the U.S. to have a “re­spect­ful at­ti­tude” to­ward Iran — sug­gest­ing it could bring div­i­dends.

Ear­lier this month, Ay­a­tol­lah Khamenei gave a rare nod of ap­proval to Washington af­ter Obama said he fa­vored di­plo­macy to re­solve the nu­clear dis­pute.

In a video mes­sage for the Ira­nian new year, known as Nowruz, Mr. Obama tried to reach out to the Ira­nian peo­ple, say­ing there was “no rea­son for the United States and Iran to be di­vided from one an­other.”

But he de­nounced Ira­nian au­thor­i­ties for set­ting up an “elec­tronic cur­tain” that keeps Ira­ni­ans from mak­ing their voices heard with Amer­ica and the West.

“In­creas­ingly, the Ira­nian peo­ple are de­nied the ba­sic free­dom to ac­cess the in­for­ma­tion that they want,” Mr. Obama said af­ter the Trea­sury Depart­ment opened the way for U.S. com­pa­nies to ex­port In­ter­net com­mu­ni­ca­tions soft­ware and other ma­te­ri­als to Iran.

“In­stead, the Ira­nian gov­ern­ment jams satel­lite sig­nals to shut down tele­vi­sion and ra­dio broad­casts. It cen­sors the In­ter­net to con­trol what the Ira­nian peo­ple can see and say. The regime mon­i­tors com­put­ers and cell­phones for the sole pur­pose of pro­tect­ing its own power,” Mr. Obama added.

The pres­i­dent has used Nowruz for out­reach to or­di­nary Ira­ni­ans in the past, but it’s un­clear how many peo­ple are reached be­cause of wide­spread In­ter­net fire­walls and ef­forts to block broad­casts such as Far­si­lan­guage pro­grams of the BBC and Voice of Amer­ica.

Still, satel­lite dishes are com­mon — although il­le­gal — and out­side chan­nels reach many Ira­nian homes.

The two na­tions are at odds be­cause the West and its al­lies fear Iran could use its uranium en­rich­ment pro­gram to even­tu­ally de­velop ma­te­rial for nu­clear war­heads. Iran says it only seeks re­ac­tors for en­ergy and med­i­cal re­search.

“In­deed, there has been a gen­eral and dra­matic rise in patent lit­i­ga­tion that some an­a­lysts at­tribute to rapid growth in the num­ber of pa­tents with un­clear or un­pre­dictable boundaries,” ac­cord­ing to an ex­ten­sive study of the phe­nom­e­non by re­searchers at Bos­ton Univer­sity.

Some of the big­gest names in the busi­ness are get­ting into the game.

Ya­hoo’s decision to sue Face­book last week charg­ing patent in­fringe­ment is just the lat­est law­suit over who in­vented what and who ripped off whom. The pre-google search-en­gine gi­ant is su­ing Face­book for what it says are 10 patent in­fringe­ments over so­cial-net­work­ing tech­nol­ogy, on­lin­ead­ver­tis­ing meth­ods, privacy, and cus­tomiza­tion.

The law­suit was filed shortly af­ter Face­book sub­mit­ted its first public stock of­fer­ing — a time when the in­dus­try gi­ant might not wel­come a pro­tracted and ex­pen­sive le­gal bat­tle hang­ing over its head.

Ya­hoo of­fi­cials ar­gues that Face­book in its ba­sic busi­ness model is em­ploy­ing tech­nol­ogy and tech­niques that the search-en­gine gi­ant de­vel­oped and owns, and wants the pop­u­lar so­cial net­work to pay up.

“Face­book’s en­tire so­cial-net­work model, which al­lows users to cre­ate pro­files for and con­nect with, among other things, per­sons and busi­nesses, is based on Ya­hoo’s patented so­cial-net­work­ing tech­nol­ogy,” the com­pany con­tended in pa­pers filed with the U.S. Dis­trict Court of North­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

Face­book vowed to vig­or­ously de­fend it­self against “these puz­zling ac­tions,” while a num­ber of high-tech blog­gers sug­gested Ya­hoo was try­ing to “bully” a ri­val that had sur­passed it in the mar­ket­place.

Pro­tect­ing the lit­tle guy

Some ar­gue that patent lit­i­ga­tion is the only way smaller-in­dus­try play­ers — who may have no im­me­di­ate prospect of bring­ing their prod­uct to mar­ket — can de­fend their prop­erty rights against richer ri­vals.

“Some in­vestors lack the re­sources and ex­per­tise needed to suc­cess­fully li­cense their tech­nolo­gies or, if nec­es­sary, en­force their pa­tents,” says the Bos­ton Univer­sity study, con­ducted by James Bessen, Jen­nifer Ford and Michael Meurer.

But the le­gal bat­tles have real costs to the real econ­omy.

The BU study found that on av­er­age, patent law­suits cost de­fen­dants $122 mil­lion. That led to “half a tril­lion dol­lars” of lost wealth from 1990 to 2010, av­er­ag­ing some $80 bil­lion an­nu­ally over the past four years.

The prospect of ru­inous le­gal bills “can de­crease the in­cen­tives for these firms to in­no­vate,” the study found. “In­no­va­tors de­cid­ing to in­vest in new tech­nol­ogy have to con­sider the risk of in­ad­ver­tent in­fringe­ment as a cost of do­ing busi­ness.”

Ko­dak, the once-dom­i­nant film com­pany, in Jan­uary filed a se­ries of law­suits against Sam­sung, Ap­ple and HTC, as it headed into bank­ruptcy. The law­suits ac­cuse the com­pa­nies of in­fring­ing on Ko­dak’s im­age-trans­mis­sion tech­nol­ogy, par­tic­u­larly in the case of Ap­ple’s iphone, ipad and ipod.

Some an­a­lysts say the most valu­able as­set left for Ko­dak, which failed to meet the chal­lenges of for­eign com­pe­ti­tion and the switch to dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy, is its hoard of pa­tents and the po­ten­tial for pay­offs in court if its law­suits suc­ceed.

Big tech-in­dus­try play­ers, many with a deep in­ven­tory of pa­tents, have tended to shy away from at­tack­ing one an­other, in a stand­off many com­pared to the old Cold War nu­clear de­tente. Go­ing af­ter a big ri­val for patent in­fringe­ment could leave one vul­ner­a­ble to a mas­sive le­gal re­tal­ia­tory strike.

But cases such as the Ya­hoo-face­book and the Ko­dak fil­ings sug­gest the old fears are break­ing down.

Many ac­tive patent plain­tiffs are es­sen­tially in the li­cens­ing busi­ness, ac­quir­ing pa­tents for prod­ucts or tech­nol­ogy that they never pro­duce. In­stead, they seek to sell the rights to other com­pa­nies.

Such is the case with Varia Hold­ings, which sued Sam­sung and Re­search in Mo­tion, the maker of Black­berry, last week for al­legedly in­fring­ing on its patent for the use of “emoti­cons” on mo­bile phones and other mo­bile de­vices. In an­other ex­am­ple, Pur­ple Leaf in July sued Ama­zon, Google and PayPal over a patent re­lated to elec­tronic check­out ser­vices.

Eo­las Tech­nolo­gies, a com­pany that won a $521 mil­lion patent-in­fringe­ment award from a jury against Mi­crosoft in 2003 (later over­turned on ap­peal) is now in a Texas court con­tend­ing it es­sen­tially owns the rights to many in­ter­ac­tive fea­tures of the Web, in­clud­ing the func­tion that of­fers a “search sug­ges­tion” when you’re en­ter­ing a term in the search bar.

‘Fuzzy pa­tents’

Fu­el­ing the rush to the court­house is the un­cer­tainty over what can and can­not be pro­tected un­der patent law.

Plain­tiffs thrive on “fuzzy pa­tents,” which they can use to claim own­er­ship of pop­u­lar tech­nolo­gies, ac­cord­ing to the BU study. “They buy up vaguely worded pa­tents that can be con­strued to cover es­tab­lished tech­nolo­gies and use them op­por­tunis­ti­cally to ex­tract li­cens­ing fees from the real in­no­va­tors.”

But some say the over­all health and growth of the in­dus­try in­di­cate that the fears are overblown.

“If it was go­ing to ruin the in­dus­try, it would have hap­pened a decade or two ago,” said Jeff Ka­gan, a wire­less and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in­dus­try an­a­lyst based in At­lanta.

Mr. Ka­gan said patent lit­i­ga­tion has been heat­ing up in part be­cause it’s hard to keep up with tech­nol­ogy’s ever-chang­ing pace.

“Tech­nol­ogy has been ex­plod­ing,” he said. “It’s so far ahead of our abil­ity to keep track of it. Even­tu­ally, when we catch up, we find things that are wrong, and law­suits are filed.”

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