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

Late but furious

From: Terry Laurenzo <TerryLaurenzo@amexbf.com>
Date: Tue, 2 Oct 2001 20:23:38 -0600
Message-ID: <0a2201c14bb2$72657c40$4fb40a0a@nexsoftntp098>
To: <www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org>
This policy is an outrage. Intellectual property patents have been the bane of the computer revolution. While some are undoubtedly legitimate, most are used to collect royalties only after allowing free and unfettered use of the idea for a period long enough to guarantee wide-spread acceptance. Some of the cases of this may have been accidental: Could Unisys have foreseen the explosion of the LZW compression algorithm or did RSA know just how much use their public key crypto algorithm would get out of allowing Netscape to build the https protocol? If they had, they may have licensed it for a small fortune from the beginning. But then again, if it had carried exorbitant licensing terms, the original users responsible for its acceptance would have likely found another solution. 

Both of these cases(Unisys and RSA) represent two of the best known cases of harassment and price gouging in this industry, but still, the unforeseen explosion of the internet led to the lucrative position these companies found themselves in. I still believe that what they have done is unethical and against the spirit of the patent laws, but they had no way to foresee the developments that would make their technologies a mainstay of the modern era.

Companies today are lining up trying to patent everything. They are actively seeking for the same pattern of events that fate afforded Unisys and RSA. And the noble W3C is supporting this quest of extortion.

The patent system was designed to protect inventors(whether companies or individuals) by giving them time to develop their product for a time without competition arising from the dissemination of the knowledge crucial to their developments. The time limit of 17 years may have been appropriate for an industrial society, but time moves faster in the information age. Seventeen years marked the rise of the first PC to the machines we have now. Seventeen years took the internet from a government research project to a focal point of our economy. Seventeen years spans the growth of startup shops such as Microsoft, Sun, and Cisco to the world giants they are today. Seventeen years ago Silicon Valley was just sand.

Are patents essential? Yes. Are patents misused? Yes. Patenting a product can be necessary and essential to the function of an organization. But the patents that the W3C will support with this policy typically do not lead to products. Rarely does the patent holder ever use their information to make anything where it could be deemed that the idea was essential to success. They use the patents wholly for extortion. While these patents are legal, the W3C, who has traditionally been the guardian of free standards on the web should not encourage their use by putting their stamp of approval on specifications which are little more than lightly veiled attempts by companies to secure future profits through deception.

Terry Laurenzo
Received on Tuesday, 2 October 2001 20:22:47 GMT

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