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comment on patent policy

From: Kannan Vijayan <k4vijaya@student.math.uwaterloo.ca>
Date: Tue, 2 Oct 2001 11:35:07 -0400 (EDT)
Message-Id: <200110021535.LAA09403@bacon.math.uwaterloo.ca>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org

I am writing this in response to the request for public comments on the Patent Policy Framework working draft.

I strongly feel that it would be a mistake for the W3C to adopt any standard which relies on patented technology.  As such, the proposal to allow the launch of standards development activities under the Reasonable and Non Discriminatory Licensing Mode, as well as the Royalty Free Licensing Mode, should be rejected.

It is clear to see that accessibility to developers has played a large part in the success of the web.  By accessibility, I mean the ability for any developer to implement the related standards without worrying about legal or intellectual property issues.  This freedom encourages many people to implement WWW standards and provide web accessibility where it was not available or inconvenient before.

W3M, for example, is a curses-based text mode web browser that supports tables, frames, and secure connections, and was developed entirely by an individual in Japan.  If any of the features implemented by W3M had been encumbered by patent licensing issues, it is very plausible that the browser would not exist today.

A better example is Konqueror - a web browser based on the KDE Toolkit and available for a number of operating systems.  Konqueror is developed by a nonprofit community of developers.  For projects such as these, patent license issues cause roadblocks to development.  It is questionable wether a community of developers should be required to afford a license fee simply to implement a standards conforming browser.  Even when license fees are not concerned, the developers must be aware of the licensed technologies in their code, keep track of it as the code changes, as well as be aware of any changes in licensing policy by the patent holder.  Furthermore, a project like Konqueror would be forced to present an organized, formal front which would manage the license issues.

If forced to deal with patent licensing, individual or will need to put significantly more effort into implementing a standards conforming browser.  This would reduce the amount of WWW related development.  More importantly, this disagrees with the open and accessible Web that the W3C promotes.

There is a more practical argument against both RAND and RF licencing being used in WWW standards.  The W3C has no way of ensuring that patents will always conform to the RAND/RF specifications.  For example, the company that holds the patent could get bought out by a parent company which has a different patent policy.  There is also the possibility that companies acting in bad faith can take advantage of this provision to make the web a more proprietary place - restricting the licensing agreements only after a patent-encumbered standard is widely accepted.  A standard, once successful and widely accepted, is extremely difficult to revoke.  Thus, care should be taken to avoid any situation where the WWW can be threatened by patent-encumbered standards.

For the reasons outlined above, the W3C should reject the proposals for allowing standards development activities under either Royalty-Free or Reasonable and Non-Disciminatory  Licensing Modes.

As a commercial software developer, a free software developer, and student, I urge you to make the right decision.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment.

-Kannan Vijayan

Received on Tuesday, 2 October 2001 11:35:10 UTC

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