Social Architecture


Why Social Architecture, and What is it?

See Actor Atlas on social architecture for explanations and details on the levels:

Poor Social Architecture at work: Software Standards Piracy?

Recent patent infringment cases in the software sector, such as:

as well as the reactions to these by developers, see for instance:

illustrate the implications of the poor allocation of knowledge assets to meso and micro level actors in an industrial sector.

There seems to be notable difference between "industrial era standards," and information society/knowledge economy standards.

In the former, strong sector organisations (industry associations, federations) exist and owning IPR is an important driver for companies to promote standards, yet ownership of IPR and the standard is decoupled.

In the information society/knowledge economy, sector organisations are rare and weak, individual companies aim for controlling standards, as a basis for market access and control (de-facto monopoly and customer lock-in). IPR ownership is not decoupled from standard setting.

The implied existence of "privately controlled barriers to trade" is due to insufficient understanding (by the regulator, market watch dog) of the value-creating mechanisms and the technology stacks supporting it. An implication is that standards created following the "traditional open approach, as recommended by the WTO, to avoid technical barriers to trade" can't compete with the standards controlled by private sector.

Private sector ownership of a standard implies (weak signal until recently) risks for standards adopters as we see in these complaints.

Calling the evil Software Standards Piracy is inspired by It's still open season for bio-piracy (Latha Jishnu, at Down To Earth, Aug. 6, 2010.

Ideas for a possible (institutional) therapy:
1) draw a clear line between the essential facility (including architecture of the technology stack, that in this context is an emerging industry commons or public good), and the assets that are suitable for rewarding with private control.
2) adjust the length of IPR protection to the technology cycles, size of the market (contrast global use software with a medicine for a rare disease) , and the amount of investment that is (on average) required to create the intellectual property (decades for a medicine, vs. a few days, weeks to months for a software algorithm)


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