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Re: [www-patentpolicy-comment] <none>

From: Dave Reeve <NOSPAM.David.Reeve@dreeve.org>
Date: Fri, 5 Oct 2001 00:43:28 +0100
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Cc: Gerald Lane <gtlane@us.ibm.com>
Message-ID: <20011005004328.A15027@dreeve.org>
Dear Gerald,

I am very rarely motivated to respond directly to peoples comments on mailing
lists.  However as you appear to work for IBM I am amazed at the statements
that you have made.  I would be interested to understand how you draw your
conclusions on this matter.  Please, at the least read my read my response.

> Historically, companies in the IT Industry have agreed to licensed patents
> under Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (RAND) terms when participating in
> formal standards setting activities.

This is very true, and I am not going to argue the point.  However may I draw
your attention to a more Internet specific example.  From what I understand
the IETF have been using RAND licenses for a while; but are in the process
of trying to avoid them in the future.  A standard cannot be widely adopted
if there are IP issues.

> The policy of licensing patents under RAND terms and conditions has allowed
> our best technical individuals to work together without becoming burdened
> by patent issues.

If you are worried about your "best technical individuals becoming burdened"
then RAND is probably not going to be the answer.  Firstly it is my experience
of the software industry that the best technical individuals usually like the
idea of their great work being used by everyone.  This can indeed be at odds
with the company policy about making money.  Secondly most developers in the
OSS/FS community (of which I believe a fair few work for IBM) are seriously
concerned about software patents, RAND is a good reason why.  Have you talked
to any of these people in your company?

> This approach encourages participants to contribute more of their patented
> technology resulting in the adoption of the best technical solutions.
> Allowing the standards activities to proceed in this manner, while moving
> the discussion of patent licenses outside of the standards developing
> organization, permits company-to-company patent dialogue and encourages
> individualized solutions to patent license issues.

I think it is important to remember that the web was invented at a pure
research organization called CERN (nice place I worked there).  It was a
good technical solution and had nothing to do with patents.  As technical
solutions go I would say its a good one.

If there is patented technology, it can still be contributed.  Why not
contribute it for free, that right RF.  There is nothing wrong with patents
when used in this way.  I am sure that IBM could gain as much PR from
the RF patents as CERN has from the RF web.  Its doesn't always have to be
about making money, sometimes that comes later.

Finally you have missed the point.  Going back to CERN it was not company to
company communication that required encouraging it was academic to academic.
Free software is all about this level of communication.  RAND licensing
effectively closes the door for the individual.  Is that really what you are
intending to achieve, many may think so.

> After all - there is no conceivable W3C patent policy that could address
> the non W3C member who holds a blocking patent on a W3C Recommendation.

So company A holds a patent that is holding back a standard.  It happens
all the time.  You can always work around it if there truly is no other
solution.  Where is that support from IBM for open source, can they not
agree to buy the patent?  What happened to patent portfolios; looking at
the members of W3C you collectively must hold virtually every patent.  Do
you think company A is still as confident of making a quick buck with
you lot breathing down its neck.  I don't think so.

> The W3C Patent Policy Framework Proposal will never provide complete
> certainty for specification developers and product implementers.

True.  However a well designed policy can help cope with 99.9% of the
issues.  If all the members disclose all of the patents covered by a
standard.  Then agree to make them RF.  No member loses out as you all
will give us just as much.  A common approach to dealing with non-members
would probably cover the rest.

At the end of the day if your software meets the needs of people, then
it will be adopted.  Patents are really orthogonal to this issue.  They
are just a way of keeping your competitors away.  In the W3C you basically
sit round the same table as your competitors, so what's the point in RAND.

> We should allow the technical experts to work unencumbered by complicated
> rules and leave the patent issues for discussion outside of the standards
> organizations.

Exactly, could not agree more.  RF is uncomplicated and has no rules.  Your
developers can safely get back to work.  Software patents are another issue.
So until you know the answer to that its best not to close any doors.

For the benefit of those who did not see it the first time around I will
repeat my previous post.  IBM (and yourself) have to make some decisions
in what they believe in.

To date I feel that the W3C have deserved respect for their efforts
to support and encourage, free, open and universal information exchange.
By creating open standards - everyone has the ability to participate
in this vision.  However in my opinion the suggested patent policy,
specifically the RAND license, threatens to destroy all that the W3C
has done to date.

As I am sure you are aware there have been a great deal of comments
on this subject in the last few days.  Many expressing their own
personal views on the subject.  I implore the members of the W3C
to examine their own viewpoint on this subject; which is clearly
summarized on the following page.


> 1. Universal Access
> W3C defines the Web as the universe of network-accessible
> information (available through your computer, phone, television,
> or networked refrigerator...). Today this universe benefits
> society by enabling new forms of human communication and
> opportunities to share knowledge.  One of W3C's primary goals
> is to make these benefits available to all people, whatever
> their hardware, software, network infrastructure, native
> language, culture, geographical location, or physical or
> mental ability.

Ok perhaps that it is philosophical, but perhaps that is precisely
what is required of a standards body; specifically a standards
body that is attempting to empower information exchange.  Software
patents exist, be that right or wrong, and the W3C needs to make
its position clear.  On this we all agree.

However if software independence is one of their goals then their
policy, as per their mission, must not exclude anyone.  Free
software would suffer; as it has in similar situations in other
areas.  Don't be the next organization to continue the trend.

"Yes. A RAND license is common among standards organizations."
(source http://www.w3.org/2001/10/patent-response#common).
But that doesn't mean its right!  Yes of course the big corps
want to own it all; but you don't have to let them.

> 4. Interoperability
> Twenty years ago, people bought software that only worked with
> other software from the same vendor. Today, people have more
> freedom to choose, and they rightly expect software components
> to be interchangeable. They also expect to be able to view Web
> content with their preferred software (graphical desktop browser,
> speech synthesizer, braille display, car phone...). W3C, a
> vendor-neutral organization, promotes interoperability by designing
> and promoting open (non-proprietary) computer languages and protocols
> that avoid the market fragmentation of the past. This is achieved
> through industry consensus and encouraging an open forum for discussion.

I prefer to view the web with a free browser.  Its nice to have
"[the] freedom to choose" and "expect software components to be
interchangeable".  So please continue to be a "vendor-neutral
organization" and "avoid the market fragmentation of the past."

I hope that the members of the W3C can see that to allow RAND
would invalidate the very principals on which they are founded.
If this is not the case - then it will be the darkest day the web
has ever seen.

-- Dave Reeve
Received on Thursday, 4 October 2001 19:43:31 UTC

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