This week, the UK’s opposition leader, Keir Starmer, outlined his plans for the United Kingdom’s energy policy, delivering his party’s national mission on clean energy. The key plank of this is to do for oil and gas what Maggie Thatcher did for coal. Margaret Thatcher had an ulterior motive, which was to try and break the power of the coal unions. Keir Starmer appears to have no ulterior motive, other than a desire for a glib soundbite. In explaining the policy, he posited that stopping any new North Sea oil and gas exploration licences would let the UK concentrate on more renewables. Explaining why he thought that was a good idea, he claimed that as renewable energy isn’t subject to global price surges, we would not be held to ransom when global demand causes costs to soar. Instead, we would have a British energy company making British energy for British people.
London. 1st April 2023. Arts Council England has just announced its support for a new piece of music theatre, awarding £12.8 million for the development of “HS2 – The Musical”. This commitment showcases the Council’s policy of funding the Arts in joining and levelling up the country, reflecting and capturing the ambitions of the Government’s flagship HS2 project.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that any tech startup wanting success needs to acquire a patent portfolio. Is that really true? Or is it just a fiction?
Whether a tech startup needs patents and an IP portfolio is an entirely different question to “should a tech startup file patents”? Unless you understand the difference between those two questions, you may waste hundreds of thousands of dollars, but today’s perceived wisdom is that it‘s money worth wasting. That perception isn’t new. When W. S. Gilbert penned the lyrics for Iolanthe, back in 1882, he had a character describe a colleague, observing that “his inventions may have enriched him by degrees, but all his little income went on patent office fees”. In the ensuing 140 years, the patent industry has worked very hard to perpetuate that status.
I’d argue that startups need to put far more thought into the value of patents and whether they really need them. Rather than adding value to a company, in many cases they are just a drain on cash, which a startup could use more effectively elsewhere, not least because a company lives and dies on its cashflow, not its patent portfolio. So, what’s the point of patents?
It’s back, and it feels busier than ever. Last year we had the Mobile “We’re not in lockdown” Congress, which was buzzy, but lacking the participation of most Chinese and Asian companies, and hampered by everyone having to wear masks the whole time. This year, the masks are gone; it really is a Mobile World Congress and everyone is back promoting all that’s new in mobile.
Almost everyone in the world knows what a SIM is. It’s the little piece of plastic with gold bits on it that makes your mobile phone work.
Almost nobody in the world knows how a SIM works.
That’s about to change, as over the next few years we’re going to see SIMs disappear. Or at least the bits of plastic with gold bits on will disappear, as the things that a SIM does get integrated inside your phone. It brings the prospect of changing the way phone contracts work, allowing your phone to do far more, and has the potential to disrupt the current business models of network operators.
There’s a very good one act play by David Greig called “the Letter of Last Resort” (which you can listen to here). It’s based on the premise that one of the first tasks of any new Prime Minister in the UK is to write a set of letters that are sent to the Captains of our nuclear submarine fleet. In the event of their losing contact with the country, it instructs them what they should do. Options include retaliating, by firing their nuclear warheads at whoever they believe were the perpetrators, surrendering, or sailing to some other country and offering them our nuclear missiles.
It’s a gloriously far-fetched political black comedy, based on a modicum of truth. However, it’s likely that a very similar debate is taking place in a boardroom in Taiwan at the moment, as TSMC and other leading silicon chip companies debate what they do in the event of a Chinese invasion. I suspect there’s a parallel one being conducted within the Taiwanese Parliament. Should these plans ever need to be realised, it will have very serious consequences on everyone’s favourite technology and put a stake in the heart of the smartphone industry.