Monday, January 30, 2012

Short takes: Greek and German governments spar over budget control; Apple wins patent victory against Motorola

The debt crisis in Europe is beginning to look less like a dry exercise in budgeting, and more like a national aggression via banking. In Greece today leaders and citizens bristled at the news that the German leaders wanted to take control over the Greek budget as the price for further bailouts.

For the past week the focus has been on negotiations taking place between Greece and its lenders, with Greece trying to win lower interest payments, especially after Eurozone finance ministers warned that they would not support final outcome with more funding if rates were not below 4 percent. At first the bankers balked by walking out of the negotiations. But now the two sides seem near an agreement.

But it is the Germans who are aggravating the situation. This weekend the Financial Times reported that the Germans were calling on the Greeks to surrender sovereignty over its budget by allowing its European partners to set tax and spending levels.

"Budget consolidation has to be put under a strict steering and control system," the German proposal reads. "Given the disappointing compliance so far, Greece has to accept shifting budgetary sovereignty to the European level for a certain period of time."

"A budget commissioner has to be appointed by the Eurogroup with the task of ensuring budgetary control. He must have the power a) to implement a centralized reporting and surveillance system covering all major blocks of expenditure in the Greek budget, b) to veto decisions not in line with the budgetary targets set by the Troika and c) will be tasked to ensure compliance with the above mentioned rule to prioritize debt service," the proposal concludes.

This unprecedented intrusion into Greek sovereignty is not sitting well with the Greeks, and it is leading to some jitters in the financial community.

"If the [new bailout] process is not completed successfully, we could face the spectre of bankruptcy with grave consequences for society and especially for the poor," said Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, according to the Athens News.

Stock prices in Europe opened down slightly on the news of the rift.

Apple won an important victory last week in federal litigation with Motorola in the Northern District of Illinois. The ruling involves "realtime API".

But according to Florian Mueller who writes the FOSSPatents blog, the most important thing may be who the judge is in the case: United States Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner. Posner, according to Mueller, is a "living legend of U.S. law.

Further, he writes, "his understanding of the '263 patent will clearly bear more psychological weight with the CAFC than the final ITC ruling (or the position of the ITC's Office of Unfair Import Investigations). Apple convinced an ALJ at the ITC and convinced a legendary, high-ranking judge. If the CAFC also agrees to interpret the '263 patent in a technically logical way, Android may face a major problem."