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Comment on the Patent Policy Framework draft

From: Sam Schillace <sschillace@macromedia.com>
Date: Tue, 2 Oct 2001 09:44:21 -0700
Message-Id: <p04320403b7df9f429034@[24.221.184.54]>
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,

Sam Schillace
Received on Tuesday, 2 October 2001 12:43:49 GMT

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