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Comment on the Patent Policy Framework draft

From: Steve Newman <steve@snewman.net>
Date: Tue, 2 Oct 2001 08:09:01 -0700
Message-Id: <p05100301b7df8429296c@[208.166.40.104]>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Like so many others, I am writing to comment on the recent Patent Policy Framework draft, and to the recent response posted at http://www.w3.org/2001/10/patent-response.

As the response notes, royalty-free standards have been crucial to the growth of the Web (and other Internet technologies), and open-source products have played a very important role.  I would add that these factors have also been critical in preserving the web as an open, decentralized system, with no single company or small group of companies being able to control its content or growth.

The response states that "W3C felt that it would be irresponsible to act as if software patents didn't exist".  This is a very reasonable statement.  However, when patent issues arise, there are multiple possible solutions, such as arranging for RAND licensing or working around the patent.  My concern (and that of many others, I believe) is that the new Policy Framework constitutes a dangerous step toward the use of licensing rather than workarounds.  Any form of patent licensing, even "RAND", would have an enormous impact on Web development, by effectively precluding open-source development or free (zero-price) software distribution.  This is particularly frightening in the current political climate which has seen the adoption of restrictive measures such as the DMCA.

Therefore, I would greatly prefer to see a Policy Framework that either excluded the possibility of patent usage in W3C standards, or (at a minimum) expressed an extremely strong bias toward working around patents, with an extremely high burden of justification required for use of a patented technology in a standard.  In the latter case, it would also be helpful to see discussion of how patented technologies would affect open-source development and free software distribution, and an exploration of licensing approaches which might mitigate this impact.

While it is true that the changes I propose might discourage patent holders from coming forward during the standards development process (as noted in the response), I feel that this is a more than worthwhile tradeoff.  Other techniques can be used to reduce, though not eliminate, the possibility of patent conflicts.

Sincerely,

Steve Newman
Received on Tuesday, 2 October 2001 11:09:13 GMT

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