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Comments on the Patent Policy Framework Working Draft

From: Alan Wexelblat <awexelblat@openlinksw.com>
Date: Tue, 2 Oct 2001 14:09:47 -0400
To: <www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org>
Cc: <awexelblat@openlinksw.com>
Message-ID: <NPEJKJMGKNGICJIJDBEFAEEECEAA.awexelblat@openlinksw.com>

You have asked for comments in a specific form.  I shall attempt to respond
as you requested.  First, I wish to disclose that I work for a small
software company, OpenLink Software.  We make a product called Virtuoso,
which implements and uses close to a dozen current W3C technologies.  I
believe that a RAND policy would put my company, and hundreds of others like
it, out of business.

We distribute our software through the Web; it is available for free
download.  As you well know, there are no world-wide patents.  For us to
negotiate agreements for all the technologies we use, in all the countries
where people download our software, would be a legal nightmare and severe
financial burden.  In addition, we allow free use of our software under
certain conditions.  I believe that RAND licenses would unfairly restrict
our ability to offer our software on the terms and conditions we find
advantageous.  Again, I expect this situation applies to hundreds of other
companies around the world.

Your specific questions related to:
- a requirement for disclosure provisions (Section 7);

I believe this is a good idea.  I understand that your experience with the
P3P process shows you can no longer operate without a policy on patents.  I
believe that full and good-faith disclosure should be a requirement.  I
believe a condition of W3C membership and participation should be an
agreement to good-faith disclosure and indemnification of the W3C against
any harm arising from participating members' failure to act in good faith.

- a procedure for launching new standards development activities as
Royalty-Free Licensing Mode activities (sections 4 and 5);

I believe that this is the only possible mode for W3C activities.  If such a
mode cannot be attained, then the activity should not move forward under W3C
auspices.  Alternatives, such as working around restricted (non-RF)
intellectual property, or redefining the scope of the activity, should be

- a procedure for launching new standards development activities as
Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (RAND) Licensing Mode activities (also
sections 4 and 5);

As noted above, I believe that such activities are antithetical to the
survival and growth of small companies such as OpenLink.  I believe this
particularly applies to the reservations clause, which allows contributors
without exception to state their intention to withhold any portion of a
contribution from RAND terms.  It appears this opens the door to unlimited
licensing terms.

Standards bodies such as the W3C must operate in free and open modes.  It is
possible for proprietary technologies and protocols to gain wide acceptance
with intellectual property restrictions, but that is a job for the
marketplace, not for a standards-making body.

I further understand that member companies have intellectual property they
consider valuable and do not wish to release under RF terms.  It is my
belief that this is a reasonable position; what I do not want is for
companies to both "eat their cake and have it" by both gaining the W3C's
blessing of a technology as standard or recommended while still being
subject to licensing restrictions.

There is a place in the world for both forms of intellectual property;
however, that place is not the World Wide Web Consortium.

Dr. Alan Wexelblat
Senior Consultant, OpenLink Software, Inc.
v: 781-273-0900x30  f: 781-229-8030
Received on Tuesday, 2 October 2001 14:09:19 UTC

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