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

Patented Specification hinder development of free software alternatives

From: Raymond Causton <rc@iki.fi>
Date: Tue, 2 Oct 2001 22:25:54 +0300
Message-ID: <002201c14b78$0dda8cf0$0500000a@w2k1400>
To: <www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org>
As you must know by now the creation of free software is done on a limited
budjet by hobbyists all around the globe. While I accept patents on tangible
thing like microchip IP blocks and machines I do not accept the possibility
of patenting software as is lawfull today in the US.

As a European from Finland, where software patents are illegal, I'm gravely
affraid about the possibility of W3C imposing mandatory patented technology
in its specifications as it will either drive free software programmers to
illegal implementations of these patented features or it will deny us of the
possibility to support these features in free implementations.

This will only benefit commercial players like Microsoft in further
deepening their stranglehold on the market as only commercial companies have
the monetary resources to pay for the licenses.

Not to mention third world countries who have little or none financial
possibilities to use and/or license this kind of technology. It will only
prompt similar action from the governments of third world countries as
happened with the replication of AIDS drugs in South Africa, which I agree
is ofcourse a whole lot graver case, but anyhow could be the case when the
western world tries to impose "legal protection of  innovation" on countries
and citizens of them who decline to obey the same laws.

You might consider the fact that the European Union has backed away from
passing the legislation to legalize software patents in Europe. This action
has been initiated largely because of the examples of the US legal system
and its complete failure to promote innovation. This is realized by lawsuits
and counter lawsuits between corporations and has driven corporations to
claim as many patents into their portfolios just to have ammo to counter sue
the other participant in case of a patent infringement claim.

This all translates to money transferred to the pockets of lawers,
innovation a particular area slowed down or possibly stopped entirely
because of fear of lawsuit and horrible problems in investigating the
possible patents issued on a certain technology.

If patented techonology has to be included into w3c specifications it should
be required from the patent holder that free licenses are readily given to
anyone implenting technology (client, server or any other entity) specified
in your specifications. This is the only tangible solution between the two
extremes of either having entirely patent free specifications or issuing
specifications that mandate the use of patented technology.

I sincerily hope that the w3c will not go down this path of policy.

Yours Truely,
    Raymond P. Causton, M.Sc.EE
    IT Security Specialist
Received on Tuesday, 2 October 2001 15:26:07 GMT

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