World Intellectual Property Organization

In the News

August 2011

British Library and Google join ranks to digitize 250,000 titles

In line with its commitment to improve access to its collections, the British Library recently announced a partnership with Google to digitize 250,000 out-of-copyright books from its collections. Under the deal the works selected by the British Library will be digitized by Google. The content will be available for full text search, download and reading and will be delivered free through Google Books and the British Library’s website. Google will bear the costs of digitization.

The project will digitize “a huge range of printed books, pamphlets and periodicals dated 1700 to 1870,” according to a British Library press release. It will include material in a range of European languages, and “will focus on books that are not freely available in digital form online.” Once digitized, these unique historical items may be accessed “from anywhere in the world” and will be available to “copy, share and manipulate” for non-commercial purposes.

Dame Lynne Brindly, Chief Executive of the British Library said, “our aim is to provide perpetual access to this historical material, and we hope that our collections, coupled with Google’s know-how, will enable us to achieve this [aim].”

Peter Barron, Director of External Relations at Google said, “What’s powerful about the technology available to us today isn’t just its ability to preserve history and culture for posterity, but also its ability to bring it to life in new ways. The public domain material is an important part of the world’s heritage, and we’re proud to be working with the British Library to open it up to millions of people in the U.K. and abroad.”

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Canadian telecoms company Nortel sells its patent portfolio

In a deal that underlines the economic value of patents, a consortium of six firms (Apple, Ericsson, EMC, Microsoft, Research in Motion (RIM) and Sony) has won a bid to purchase the remaining patents and patent applications of Canada’s beleaguered telecommunications company, Nortel Networks. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009 and has been selling off its assets ever since.

The sale, worth US$4.5 billion, includes an extensive portfolio of around 6,000 patents and patent applications which touch “nearly every aspect of telecommunications and additional markets… including Internet search and social networking", according to a company press release.

“The size and dollar value of this transaction is unprecedented, as was the significant interest in the portfolio among major companies around the world,” noted George Riedel, Nortel’s Chief Strategy Officer and President of Business Units.

The deal is expected to be finalized in autumn 2011, following approval by the U.S. and Canadian bankruptcy courts.

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Integrated trans-Tasman patent system promises significant savings

The governments of Australia and New Zealand have agreed to implement a plan to put into place a single patent application and examination process for both countries. The plan, announced in early July by Australia’s Innovation Minister, Senator Kim Carr and New Zealand’s Commerce Minister, Simon Power, promises inventors a “faster, cheaper and more streamlined trans-Tasman process.”

“By moving to align the application processes we will remove duplication and reduce costs. We believe the single pathway to patent protection across Australia and New Zealand will in turn encourage inventors and businesses,” Senator Carr said.

This move promises to generate significant cost savings – up to $5,000 per invention.

“By removing potential barriers we’re trying to create a seamless trans-Tasman business environment and making it easier to conduct business in both countries,” Minister Power noted. “This level of patent cooperation is a world first and will give Australia and New Zealand innovators greater confidence when seeking IP protection overseas,” he added.

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