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

Opposed to inclusion of patents in standards

From: Brian Clancey <publisher@statpub.com>
Date: Wed, 3 Oct 2001 17:20:05 -0700
Message-ID: <05be01c14c6a$514f9960$717fe8d8@bc.hsia.telus.net>
To: <www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org>
 My initial response and that of most people to the concept of including
patented concepts in W3C standards is simply: "Don't"

 I understand the committee is frustrated by this response. I am surprised
that "don't" is not accepted as a valid response to the proposal. The
community at large is simply stating that it does not want to be exposed to
the risk of being liable to pay royalties on patents by simply trying to
remain in compliance with W3C standards for web development and
interoperability with other schemas and distribution modes. This is a
legally and academically valid response.
 By incorporating patented technology into the standard, ownership of the
standard is immediately and materially transferred from the community of W3C
developers to private, commercial interests. More importantly, this is not
necessarily done with the knowledge and consent of developers and
publishers. The consequence is that we are no longer developing to an
industry standard, we are developing to a commercial standard.
 Not only is the W3C placing developers and publishers, often without their
informed consent, at risk of being forced to pay patent royalties and the
risk of civil and/or criminal action, depending on the country in which
action is brought against them.
 For our company the risks are magnified by the fact we write our own
software to manage our website, including migrating existing documents to
emerging standards for distribution via media other than the WWW. We could
unwittingly violate software patents by simply trying to distribute
information in full compliance with the various W3C standards. This could
put us at grave risk in some countries and the potential of massive fines
and imprisonment when any of our staff enters the United States. The Digital
Millennium Act and its successors make it a very serious crime to circumvent
or divine the workings of patented software.
 It may be appropriate for a commercial entity to patent its software
creations, though some countries may end up taking a contrary view on this
issue. But, W3C is not a commercial entity and it is entirely inappropriate
for your organization to force developers and publishers to use patented
software creations that they may otherwise choose to avoid. Public standards
need to be public and free of commercial interest.
 As soon as they are not, they become commercial standards and then become
subject to the ebb and flow of the market. In the end, including patented
software technology in the W3C standards means that royalties may need to be
paid to use the standards. Consequently, the standards cease being public
and the W3C ceases being a public institution. It becomes a commercial
institution and W3C standards become products.
 That will stimulate the evolution of competing products. Much of the work
is already done because the existing work of the W3C can simply be slurped
up by a new standards body, which will begin the long debate over how to
incorporate new concepts in a patent free fashion. From that point on, there
will be competing standards. The W3C initiatives will carry the risk of
financial penalty if used and others will not. Both will work great at the
current state of development. For future concepts they will simply battle
one another, or new initiatives will be started by industry specific groups.
Instead of going to one group for standards information, I will need to go
to several.

 I trust this is a little more satisfactory than a simple "don't".

 Sincerely Yours,

 Brian Clancey
 STAT Communications Ltd.
 PMB 803, 250 H Street
 Blaine WA 88230 USA
Received on Wednesday, 3 October 2001 20:22:18 UTC

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