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

My concerns

From: Jim Agan <agan0005@tc.umn.edu>
Date: Tue, 2 Oct 2001 12:41:22 -0500
Message-Id: <000701c14b69$764a13a0$6e636580@umn.edu>
To: <www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org>
I am writing to express my concerns about the Patent Policy Working Group's
proposal to allow web standards to incorporate patents licensed under RAND
standards.  I am especially concerned that the Working Group does not
represent the interests of the Internet community.  In particular, the
Apache Foundation is not represented in any way on the Working Group despite
the fact that the Apache webserver serves the plurality of websites and a
majority of web traffic.  It seems unusual to exclude the group that would
be most adversely affected by this policy, especially when this group is
unquestionably the market leader.

I am also concerned that the Working Group's publications have not
documented any substantial need to change the current RF policy for Web
standards.  There is no documentation of specific cases where implementing
standards under RAND licensing is necessary or beneficial.  What
technologies need to be incorporated into existing W3C standards which are
restricted by patents? Are these technologies truly in need of being
declared "standards"?  These questions are especially important given the
remarkable success of the current policy of requiring standards to be
royalty-free.  In short, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

The policy fails to clarify certain terms in any manner, which invites
future abuse of its good intentions.  For example, the FAQ states "...there
are aspects of the infrastructure that are sufficiently central that they
should be designed to be implementable without license fees..." but it fails
to delineate what is "sufficiently central".  Is the HTML standard
"sufficiently central"?  What about HTTP?  And "reasonable,
non-discrimantory royalties or fees" is disturbingly left undefined.
Certain members of the Working Group have a history of referring to their
licensing terms for their products as "reasonable" when such claims are
laughable to anyone else.  Companies or individuals who wish to implement
web standards could soon be faced with multiple royalties to multiple
licensors under multiple terms which would be enforced under multiple
juridstictions due to the "choice of law" provision allowed in RAND terms.
Again, some W3C members have a history of producing software with licensing
terms so complex that one must consult an attorney to even hope for
compliance.  The Web has propspered and grown precisely because it has
suffered from little overhead in these and other areas.  The legal costs to
individuals and small organizations would quickly become prohibitive and
these groups have been the primary innovators of the Internet.
Received on Tuesday, 2 October 2001 13:41:42 UTC

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