Cuba's answer to bit torrent

Yoani Sanchez posted an anecdote about her 20-year old neighbor who exchanges and sells foreign television programs, music and films in a "dizzying variety and quantity" on flash drives.

Her post reminded me of the early days, when you could walk into a government storefront in Havana and get the latest software from the US copied onto floppy disks. You had to bring your own floppies and, if you wanted a copy of the manual, your own copier paper. I was surprised at how current the software was.

Do others have anecdotes or data on the traffic in flash-drive content -- cultural or political?

Kent Walker at TPI Aspen Summit: Embrace Magic

This week is the annual Technology Policy Institute Aspen Summit and our general counsel Kent Walker just gave a keynote talk on the ingredients of creating magical new products -- and how policymakers and regulators can ensure that patent and competition policy enable future magical inventions. Check out the prepared text of Kent's speech by clicking here.

Cuban computer scientists can publish with ACM and IEEE

In a comment on an earlier post, Muchas Gracias wrote that publishers, including prominent computer science and technology professional societies ACM and IEEE, would not accept articles by Cuban authors for fear of Treasury Department fines. I checked with Deborah Cotton, who handles rights and permissions at ACM, and it turned out that that was their current policy.

But, unbeknownst to ACM, the ban has been lifted. A lawsuit challenging the ban was filed in 2004 and settled in 2007. It turns out that scientific and technical publication is now permitted. (More detail, including copies of correspondence with IEEE, is available here).

Well, it took a Federal law suit, but Cuban computer scientists and engineers and others can now be published in the US without the publisher obtaining a license.

Ms. Cotton told me that the information on the law change was forwarded to the ACM Director of Publications and/or the Publication Review Board for a formal resolution. Bernard Rous, ACM's Director of Publications, followed up with a search of the ACM Digital Library, which turned up 13 articles with authors from Cuba. He pointed out that most seemed to be co-authored with authors in Brazil or Spain, which is also consistent with Muchas Gracias' claim.

I also checked with Fran Tardo, External Communications Manager at IEEE, about their policy. She told me IEEE had requested and been granted a general license for publishing in December 2004. Based on this ruling, IEEE developed its policy for the handling of manuscripts from authors in embargoed countries. As I read it, it seems to be saying that an author from an embargoed nation would be treated the same as any other author.

Google for Entrepreneurs goes to San Diego to empower veterans and military families

In addition to all they do for their country overseas, service members are also a markedly entrepreneurial group: although veterans represent only 6% of the U.S. population, they account for an impressive 13.5% of all U.S. small business owners. This entrepreneurial spirit is contributing to business growth around the country, and last week we decided to head down to San Diego to see how Google for Entrepreneurs and Startup Weekend could help.

On August 9, Google for Entrepreneurs, along with the Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families and Startup Weekend, hosted a series of events focused on giving business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs from the military community the training and tools they need to take advantage of the web to build and grow businesses. More than 200 service members learned about free tools to create a web site, track and measure their web presence and market their product or service.

Engaged and full of pride, the veteran-owned businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs came from across California. Misty Birchall, a Navy veteran and founder of PubCakes, delighted attendees when she gave us a taste of her passion for combining baking and craft beer. Marine Corps sergeant turned organic farmer Colin Archipley brought many participants from Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training, an entrepreneurial incubator program he founded to help transitioning veterans train for careers in sustainable agriculture. Even the underdogs (and undercats) were well-represented—Precious Paw Prints, an online retailer selling creative pet accessories owned by Marine veteran Kiersten Carlin, shared that small business can win by providing a higher level of quality and service that larger brands cannot.

Over the following weekend, aspiring entrepreneurs from the veterans community attended the local Startup Weekend, where they formed teams to turn their idea ideas into products. By Sunday night, five teams had launched businesses.

Being a successful entrepreneur means having an appetite for risk, an ability to navigate ambiguity and a passion to get things done at all costs; it’s no mystery why such a large number of small businesses are started by veterans or service-disabled veterans. They certainly have what it takes to be entrepreneurs.

You can read more about our recent programs for members of the veterans’ community here.

Improving Google Patents with European Patent Office patents and the Prior Art Finder

Cross-posted from the Google Research blog

At Google, we're constantly trying to make important collections of information more useful to the world. Since 2006, we’ve let people discover, search, and read United States patents online. Starting this week, you can do the same for the millions of ideas that have been submitted to the European Patent Office, such as this one.

Typically, patents are granted only if an invention is new and not obvious. To explain why an invention is new, inventors will usually cite prior art such as earlier patent applications or journal articles. Determining the novelty of a patent can be difficult, requiring a laborious search through many sources, and so we’ve built a Prior Art Finder to make this process easier. With a single click, it searches multiple sources for related content that existed at the time the patent was filed.

Patent pages now feature a “Find prior art” button that instantly pulls together information relevant to the patent application.

The Prior Art Finder identifies key phrases from the text of the patent, combines them into a search query, and displays relevant results from Google Patents, Google Scholar, Google Books, and the rest of the web. You’ll start to see the blue “Find prior art” button on individual patent pages starting today.

Our hope is that this tool will give patent searchers another way to discover information relevant to a patent application, supplementing the search techniques they use today. We’ll be refining and extending the Prior Art Finder as we develop a better understanding of how to analyze patent claims and how to integrate the results into the workflow of patent searchers.

These are small steps toward making this collection of important but complex documents better understood. Sometimes language can be a barrier to understanding, which is why earlier this year we released an update to Google Translate that incorporates the European Patent Office’s parallel patent texts, allowing the EPO to provide translation between English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Swedish, with more languages scheduled for the future. And with the help of the United States Patent & Trademark Office, we’ve continued to add to our repository of USPTO bulk data, making it easier for researchers and law firms to analyze the entire corpus of US patents. More to come!

Google Applauds Bipartisan Resolution Opposing Increased International Regulation of the Internet

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an important House Concurrent Resolution aimed at ensuring the Internet remains an open, stable, and global platform for economic growth, innovation, and cultural and civic discourse. As I have recently testified and written, a battle in the war for the Internet is opening at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a United Nations organization. This December, the ITU is conducting a review of the international agreements governing telecommunications, and some member countries see the ITU conference as an opportunity to expand the ITU’s regulatory authority to reach the Internet.

Traditionally, international discussions of Internet policy have flourished in a “multistakeholder” system that involves the input of lawmakers, academics, civil society, and users. If certain member states are successful in Dubai, they could change the Internet governance process as we know it, increasing state control over networks and substantially limiting the role of users and other vital, nongovernmental actors in important Internet policy debates.

By passing this resolution, the U.S. Government has recognized the Internet’s critical role in growing the global economy, its unique status as a platform for innovation, and the success of multistakeholder model that lies at the heart of its governance. In the lead-up to the December conference, the future of the Internet is at stake, and I hope that other countries will adopt publicly similar positions.