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Patent Policy Comment/Remarks

From: Alex Dark <adark@appliedtheory.com>
Date: Tue, 02 Oct 2001 08:05:26 -0700
Message-Id: <200110021505.f92F5Db18166@franklin.appliedtheory.com>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
This is a difficult dilemma for the W3C, which (I 
agree) has to take some sort of action. I would only 
say two things about it: 

1.  It seems like the opportunity to choose between 
royalty-free and RAND-style licenses for this or 
that recommendation will really bring the lions in 
for the kill. 

Business interests will have a strong incentive to 
get representatives on to technical committees to 
argue for RAND-style licensing schemes. Imagine 
having your patented technology, some laughable 
thing like Sun's supposed patent on a part of 
XPointer, recognized in a W3C recommendation.

Ok, so the W3C has this problem under the current 
regime, this proposal will remove uncertainty, but 
it won't eliminate the power of patent interests to 
undermine the process.

2.  I am a developer who grew up on the WWW: I have 
depended my entire career on the fact that anyone, 
anywhere could implement W3C recommendations or 
implement tools to implement these recommendations. 
(And unlike ISO, you can even get the 
recommendations at no charge!) This was a historical 
success on the part of the W3C that turned the WWW 
(and the Internet) into a piece of the public 

So I find it quite foreign to hear talk of licensing 
a technical recommendation. Such recommendations are 
extremely limited in their utility. If the W3C goes 
down that path, it becomes just another industry 
association promoting standardization between a set 
of vendors. That's far less than what it has 
accomplished in the past, and many such "standards" 
die in the course of time.

Examples here would be the WAP Forum; the fact that 
they were reinventing infrastructure in part to 
control the copyrights and the standards process 
makes me quite dubious of the long-term viability of 
their standards. And I'm not aware of any major IETF 
standard that is encumbered by patent licenses of a 
similar kind (the IETF is mentioned by the patent 
work group as an example of a standards body that 
deals with RAND licenses).

Ironically, the W3C is getting heat on this patent 
recommendation because it is (happily) the victim of 
its own successes.

Alx Dark, Ph.D., Senior Consultant
AppliedTheory Corporation

The views expressed are my own.
Received on Tuesday, 2 October 2001 11:05:16 UTC

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