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Re: Patents and public (was: RE: Proposal to Adopt HTML5)

From: Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>
Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2007 14:50:33 -0700
Message-Id: <2AC4E606-92D7-4314-ABF6-112464C58067@apple.com>
Cc: Ben Meadowcroft <ben@benmeadowcroft.com>, "'Ian Hickson'" <ian@hixie.ch>, "'HTML WG'" <public-html@w3.org>
To: Chris Wilson <Chris.Wilson@microsoft.com>


On Apr 12, 2007, at 10:59 AM, Chris Wilson wrote:

> Maciej Stachowiak wrote:
>> The W3C has always had a policy of taking input from the general
>> public via public mailing lists that impose no special obligations to
>> subscribe. For example, the CSS working group accepts public comments
>> on its drafts via www-style@w3.org, despite also having a completely
>> private list.
>
> And if a commenter on the public list were suggesting a patentable  
> invention, I would expect the CSS WG to follow up with that  
> commenter to sign the patent policy.

You might expect that, but I have never seen a W3C working group do  
such a thing, or even try to determine what might be a patentable  
invention. I personally don't even know how to judge if an idea is  
patentable, do you?

>> Note also that whether something is covered by a patent may bear no
>> relation to who suggested it. If I unwittingly suggest an idea that,
>> for example, IBM has a patent on, the fact that Apple agreed to the
>> patent policy affords no protection.
>
> That's never been the issue when I've brought up patent policy as a  
> concern.  This isn't about the Eolas case, for example, and never  
> has been.  The issue that patent policy protects against is Joe  
> Schmoe sending in a "good idea" that he knowingly has IP on (or  
> that his company has IP rights on), and it gets adopted - and then  
> he can sue the implementers.  The provenance of any significant  
> contribution is important.

It's true that this is remotely possible, but it actually seems less  
likely than unwittingly suggesting a feature where someone else holds  
the patent. The latter has happened before, but I don't know of any  
instance of your suggested scenario in the case of W3C standards.  
Applying the W3C patent policy also would not prevent someone from  
deliberately using a knowing or unknowing third party to inject  
something into the spec. I think the best way to mitigate risk is to  
get as many companies with large patent portfolios that are likely to  
affect the spec into the Working Group.

I agree that having an IPR structure in place is a good thing, but we  
should not take it so far that we ignore public feedback.

Regards,
Maciej
Received on Thursday, 12 April 2007 21:50:50 GMT

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