W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org > October 2001

Don't emasculate the W3C

From: Keith MacLeod <keith@multipage.ca>
Date: Tue, 2 Oct 2001 13:38:59 -0400
Message-ID: <001301c14b69$21a49cd0$0d00a8c0@multipage.ca>
To: <www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org>
    I must argue strongly against allowing patent-encumbered technology to
be incorporated into W3C recommendations/specifications on anything other
than a royalty-free basis.

    Whereas outwardly the requirement for "reasonable and
non-discriminatory" royalty fees has a nice ring to it, the enforcement of
such guidelines and the possible remedies for those who feel that they are
being treated in an "unreasonable" or "discriminatory" fashion will
undoubtedly prove to be prohibitively costly for developers working on a
small (or nonexistent) budget.

    Is it "reasonable" for a developer who intends to make no profit from
his work to believe that a zero-dollar royalty fee is "non-discriminatory"
for him? in the mind of the developer, this would seem to make sense. In the
boardroom of the owners of the patent, I'm certain another opinion will
prevail. Where will the financial resources come from for the developer to
argue his point?

    The W3C's stated goals themselves would seem to clearly rule out the
possibility of considering such a measure ('Universal Access: To make the
Web accessible to all by promoting technologies that take into account the
vast differences in culture, education, ability, material resources, and
physical limitations of users on all continents',) since once an implementor
must consider royalty fees as a necessary part of development costs, the
impetus for developing compliant products must inevitably be determined by
the potential financial returns on the product itself.

    This will stifle academic implementations, open implementations,
implementations for marginalized markets (e.g. the blind,) implementations
for disenfranchised markets (e.g. the poor,) and clearly put the future of
the web into the hands of large corporate players who historically have
proven to be unwilling to devote their time and expertise to developing for
low-return marketplaces.

    The rationalization for this move itself seems somewhat specious. The
inclusion of a provision allowing working groups to reconsider their
liscensing models post-facto cannot but make one wonder if there is not
already a pantent holder for one or more of the various technologies that
make up the W3C's recommendations, hoping to push this through and make a
cash-grab. There is no clear and pressing need to incorporate patented
technology into the core recommendations of the W3C, since numerous
proprietary technologies are already being used alongside the open ones
which make up the web, without the necessity for incorporating them into the
W3C's recommendations.

    In short, the net effect of allowing patent holders to demand royalties
of implementors of web-related products will ultimately be the stifling of
development outside the corporate envelope. The requirement for "reasonable
and non-discriminatory" royalty fees would seem to be insufficient to
prevent this, even without the inherent vagueness of the phrase itself.

Thank you for considering my opinion,

Keith MacLeod
Manager, Information Technologies,
MultiPage, Inc.

(the views expressed herein are those of the author, and do not represent
the policies of MultiPage, Inc.)
Received on Tuesday, 2 October 2001 13:35:09 GMT

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