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Patentented Standards Are Harmful

From: David C Thompson <dcthomp@mail.utexas.edu>
Date: Wed, 03 Oct 2001 00:54:15 -0700
Message-ID: <3BBAC427.5FB1FBFB@mail.utexas.edu>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
I hope you don't put your stamp on standards people propose
that have patents tied to them. The whole point of a standard
is that it is a _universal_ measure of conformance or quality.
A patent is owned by a single entity. That entity becomes a
gatekeeper for the standard; the measure cannot be universal
unless people are free to apply it.

Whether or not you believe that patents are fair or that they
increase corporate research, patents do not belong in standards.
In your Patent Policy Framework FAQ, you claim that the RAND clause
is aimed at "higher-level" technologies (whatever that means).
My question to you is this: If a company is unwilling to make its
work available for an open standard, is there really a need for it
to be a standard at all? If it is so important that a company feels
it can charge for the use of its ideas and _still_ have it accepted
as a standard, then won't anyone who was willing to pay money to
use the ideas do so, regardless of whether they are a standard? In that
case, you only cheapen yourselves by putting your stamp of approval
on it. If not, then perhaps the world can wait until something better
comes along or the company changes its mind.

I am writing this because I believe the RAND clause will be used as
a weapon against the free software community. All that's required
is a "reasonable fee" based on the number of copies of a piece of
software in use rather than a single, one-time fee for access to the
standard. Microsoft has shown a willingness (as judged by a court of
law in the United States!) to perform unethical and illegal acts to
maintain its monopoly power. Why should I believe they'll behave
differently now? What about others? Although it would be nice if
people would behave in a civil manner, I don't think your rules are
strong enough to prevent your good name from being used as a stick by
a schoolyard bully. Please reconsider your patent policy.

		Thanks,
		David Thompson
Received on Wednesday, 3 October 2001 03:52:07 GMT

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