W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > April 2007

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

From: Chris Wilson <Chris.Wilson@microsoft.com>
Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2007 10:09:43 -0700
To: Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>
CC: Ben Meadowcroft <ben@benmeadowcroft.com>, 'Ian Hickson' <ian@hixie.ch>, 'HTML WG' <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <5C276AFCCD083E4F94BD5C2DA883F05A27D719268D@tk5-exmlt-w600.wingroup.windeploy.ntdev.microsoft.com>

Maciej Stachowiak [mailto:mjs@apple.com] wrote:
>> 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?

Scope of uniqueness.  Surely a few people at Apple know whether an idea is patentable scope or not, I think you guys have a few patents.  Including something around <canvas>.  :)  Seriously, though - video codec, patentable.  Innovative way of using fallback mechanism - potentially patentable.  Innovative algorithm for rasterizing particular graphics api calls - potentially patentable.  Calling a tag "canvas" - copyrightable, perhaps, but not really patentable.  (I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, etc.)

>>[chris talks about submarine patents]
>
>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.

There is nothing you can do about that, other than exhaustive patent searchs, which you said (and I completely agree) are expensive, dangerous, and likely to not catch things anyway.

>The latter has happened before, but I don't know of any
>instance of your suggested scenario in the case of W3C standards.

W3C has never been quite this public before either.  And the W3C, to my knowledge, has CERTAINLY have never had a specification ostensibly owned by them that is in really the sole product of a member who takes a wide variety of inputs to edit the spec, all but the WG of which inputs are not under any patent constraints or indeed even necessarily IP provenance discovery.

>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.

True.  I would hope that no knowing party in the group would do this, but it is just a hope.  I would hope any UNKNOWING party would say "hey, that's a great innovative idea.  Could you agree to the patent policy and contribute it?  Come on, if 300 people have done it so far it doesn't seem so high a bar."

>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.

Leaving, still, Microsoft as the first company to get sued by an intentionally-externally-introduced submarine patent.

>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.

I absolutely do want to respond to public feedback, and in the end for the charter championed that the WG must work in the public, unlike any other WG I've been on - despite my stated misgivings (and I'm just waiting for the press to pick up one of these threads).  Responding to public feedback is not the same thing as letting anyone from the outside contribute innovative, potentially patentable ideas into the spec without signing up for the patent policy.  I would never suggest that we ignore public feedback, nor ignore great outside ideas - I have consistently argued inside Microsoft that a significant value of open standards is the great ideas other people have - just that we be conscientious about IP provenance.

-Chris
Received on Friday, 13 April 2007 17:09:49 UTC

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