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

RAND is a bad idea

From: Ray Benjamin <raybenjamin13@home.com>
Date: Thu, 04 Oct 2001 14:41:11 -0600
Message-Id: <>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Cc: Mike Curtis <mecurti@us.ibm.com>, Marco@marcorp.win.net, Annette Receiver <ARecev@aol.com>, Beth Ubele <bubele@abovomarketing.com>

I am opposed to the RAND license proposed in the patent policy for a number 
of reasons.

1) It can be used to block new standards that might compete with a 
proprietary standard developed by the member -- by filing patents on parts 
of the new standard, as it is developed, a member of the working group can 
effectively kill a standard by refusing to allow licensing of it's technology.

2) Increasing the cost of doing business on the Web -- It seems that any 
member corporation could insure that it gets automatic revenues from each 
and every standard that it works on, by developing and patenting technology 
used for that standard.  With that incentive, why would a company ever fail 
to file patents on any and all ideas submitted to the working group?

3) Cost of participating in the standards process -- This policy also 
requires all members of the W3C to license all technology required to 
implement standards.  This move, since it requires that a company be 
willing to commit to spend an unknown amount of money ahead of time, just 
to participate as a member of the W3C, will serve to further restrict the 
membership in the W3C to large companies.

4) There is no definition of "payment of reasonable, non-discriminatory 
royalties or fees", so there is no real limitation on the fees that a 
company can charge as long as they can conjure some sort of argument that 
makes them appear "reasonable".

5) The proposal states: "So it is especially important that the 
Recommendations covering lower-layer infrastructure be implementable on an 
RF basis. Recommendations addressing higher-level services toward the 
application layer may have a higher tolerance for RAND terms."  I believe 
that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between 
lower-layer infrastructure and higher-level services.  XML was originally 
intended only as a replacement for HTML and has grown into the enabling 
technology for a slew of additional standards.  W3C Working Group member 
companies will have a strong incentive to classify every project as part of 
higher-level services, in the hopes that the standard they work on will 
become the basis for a great deal of additional work.

6) Whether to use a standard as the basis for a new standard will be 
affected by whether the existing standard is RF or RAND.  Members who hold 
a stake in the standard will push for it's use, while members that don't, 
will want to avoid it, and the costs associated with it.

7) Working Group members will start pushing to include as much patented 
material as possible in each standard, in order to maximize profits, rather 
than concentrate on developing the most appropriate solutions.

I feel very strongly that ALL web standards published by the W3C should be 
royalty-free.  I believe that members of the W3C should agree to offer a 
royalty-free license on patents that apply to standards developed by the 
organization as a condition of membership.

The issue of patents and web standards is important.  The standards for 
XPointer and XLink have already been threatened by patents by Sun and other 
companies.  The W3C needs to have a clear policy on patents and standards, 
but I believe that it needs to be one that focuses primarily on advancing 
web technology, not padding the bank accounts of the participating members.

There is an argument that companies that participate in the W3C need to 
recover the cost of the research and development they invest in the 
standards process.  I believe that they already do, by avoiding the costs 
associated in dealing with dozens of competing standards.  I seem to recall 
that's why the W3C was organized in the first place.

The development of free and open standards governing web technology is 
absolutely vital to the advancement of the web.  Adopting this sort of 
policy will slow the creation, acceptance and implementation of new 
technologies on the web.  This policy will enrich a few large companies, 
while slowing the expansion of the web and the economic benefits that would 
bring to all of us.

This policy is a bad idea.

Thank you for your kind attention,
	Ray Benjamin
Received on Thursday, 4 October 2001 16:46:56 UTC

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