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Three cheers for the Poles in the patent ointment

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You probably know about it already but for those who don't, forget that directory enquiries number you have memorised laboriously and simple go to BT at, naturally, www. bt. com. Right down the bottom left is a pale blue bar headed 'Directory Enquiries'. Click on either 'find a person' or 'find a business' and enter whatever details you know.

The limitation seems to be that you need a rough location, so perhaps it's best not to entirely forget that directory number.

There is another reason for being grateful to Poland, apart from supplying cheap construction labour. New to the EC, it has turned out to be the bastion of free competition, which has meaning in terms of the cost of the software we all use. Alternatively, if you are a multinational software house, it is a serious fly in the ointment. Poland has forced the EC to take another look at its patent 'reforms'. I won't rehearse the complex details here, nor the pros and cons, but it centres around the fact that the US allows anything to do with software to be patented, to the enormous advantage of armies of lawyers.

Needless to say, the EC is proposing the 'harmonisation' of patent rules, which looks to be very much in favour of the rich and lobbying US software companies (and our own men in wigs). When Bill Gates talks of the opposition as 'modernday sort of communists' you know there must be something good about Poland's opposition to the current EC patent proposals. IT managers, who as a matter of course tweak programmes to suit their company's special needs, would probably have to spend lots of dosh and time doing patent searches for possible inadvertent infringements.

I haven't yet had the torrent of abuse about my reference to the real price of a $500 Mac Mini. Come on. Make my day.

I'll tell you about how Apple adds on an extra £22 for British buyers and about twice that for Continental Europeans? before you pay for the essential add-ons.

And about that massive lawsuit against a disrespectful Harvard student.

sutherland. lyall@btinternet. com

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