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

Re: public opinion on W3C

From: Chris Lilley <chris@w3.org>
Date: Thu, 04 Oct 2001 14:35:17 +0200
Message-ID: <3BBC5785.A2231197@w3.org>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
CC: Pierre Phaneuf <pp@ludusdesign.com>

> From: Pierre Phaneuf <pp@ludusdesign.com>

> I used to point at the work of the W3C and at the web in general and
> tell people that open standard can work (a few differences, but it works
> in general).

I still do.

> If this passes, I won't be able to do so anymore.

Sure you will, because you will be able to point to a publically
available specification (juts like before) but now, you will be able to
point to existing patent disclosures and license terms as well, from all
the companies that helped create the specification. So you can tell at a
glance what the patent status is from those companies; a big advance on
having to ask them all individually, or hope that they don't have any
patents, or whatever you did before. What did you do before, by the way?

> This is just like the GIF debacle, the community will have to develop
> PNG-equivalent standards for RAND licensing technologies and this will
> be hell all over again.

Speaking as one of the authors of the PNG specification, which was the
first W3C Recommendation and which was produced in response to a
submarine patent from UniSys - if the GIF specification had had a patent
disclosure page like SVG and SMIL have, then it would not have happened. 

Lets take a hypothetical situation. Suppose GIF (and PNG) never existed.
Suppose GIF was being developed at W3C and W3C has the patent policy in
place that it is now developing. Then UniSys (who are W3C Members, last
I checked) would be asked to disclose all relevant patents essential to
GIF once GIF became a W3C Proposed Recommendation and all W3C Members
were asked to review it. There would be a question on their review form
where they have to answer whether they are aware of any patents or not
and what their license terms are.

And, as a condition of membership, they would have to agree to RAND
licensing anyway. Plus, if they were aware of the patent and did not
disclose it at that time, there is legal precedent to mean they would
not be allowed to profit from it. *if* there was a requirement to
disclose the patents, that they did not comply with.

Now, looking at the actual development of GIF. Where was the legal
requirement to disclose patents? Where was the list of organisations
involved, their disclosed patents, their licensing terms? No-where. And
my understanding of the licensing for the UniSys patent is that it was
*not* RAND. On the contrary, it was most unreasonable. Authors of
freeware programs were asked to pay per-download fees on their free
software. This resulted in some smaller companies going out of business;
thier shareware licensing would never cover the per-download fes and of
course for free as opposed to shareware, there would always be a net
loss of money. Not reasonable, and very discriminatory. This license, if
I understood it correctly (and perhaps UniSys will correct me if I have
any facts there wrong) would *not* be allowed under W3Cs RAND license
which is the minimum acceptable license term. And of course if there was
a RF license then, no problem for anyone.

> Don't do this to us!

I agree about "don't do to us what happened with GIF". We are taking
steps to ensure that this is not done to anyone, at least for W3C specs.

Received on Thursday, 4 October 2001 08:35:23 UTC

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