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

why the W3C should reject RAND

From: Andrew Hagen <xah@myrealbox.com>
Date: Thu, 04 Oct 2001 21:43:13 -0500
Message-Id: <200110050143.f951hg922134@robin.mail.pas.earthlink.net>
To: "www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org" <www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org>
The worldwide web is a successful Internet platform for two reasons:
the low cost of entry, and the low cost of operations. 

The first, the low cost of entry, means that nowadays just about anyone
on the Internet has the ability to download web pages, contribute to
already existing web sites, and even create new web sites. These facts
are important in the rapid growth in Internet use. It is quick and thus
cheap for a user to learn how to browse, and even how to implement web
sites. The low cost is predicated on the dearth of restrictions beyond
those strictly technical in nature, including the availability of
bandwidth. These technical costs are held down by the fact that every
facet of W3C's web architecture is unburdened by patent royalties.
Besides paying a service provider, the end user faces few legal hurdles
before getting involved. 

The second reason the worldwide web has been successful is the low cost
of continued operations. To go about downloading, creating, modifying,
and uploading files on the web, one does not usually have to worry
about patent restrictions. One need only worry about paying patent
"rents" or "taxes" if one strays from W3C standards. The W3C standards
in browsing functionality, in html authoring, and in http serving are
the gold standards of the web. When something goes wrong, one can
always check to see if one is following the appropriate W3C standards
as part of a troubleshooting step. Often, reverting to the standard
solves the problem. If any W3C standard involved patent royalties, that
cost would quickly be passed to the end user. As end users' costs rise,
the utility of the worldwide web from a rational, cost-benefit analysis
perspective would soon decrease. Inevitably, worldwide web usage would
also decrease as users shift to lower cost information networks. 

Note that the worldwide web developed quickly, and so could a competing
Internet platform, even one that has not yet been conceived.

The W3C has successfully promoted the worldwide web into the premier
information distribution network existing today, and into one of the
greatest achievements in the history of humankind. A key strategy of
the W3C's has been to keep the costs of use down by not making royalty
patents a part of web standards, thus shielding end users from cost

There is little functionality to be gained in adopting web standards
based on patents. That which already exists in a commercial laboratory
can be replicated outside of it. Admittedly, however, a small speed-up
in technological availability can be gained with patents. Patents are
temporary, however, and not just because the law allows them to exist
for only a matter of years (17 in the US, I think). In software
development, it's only a matter of time for somebody to come along and
implement the same idea as the patent holder.

Allow me to state it firmly: the worldwide web should not be patented,
even in part. The web's continued success depends on the continued
responsible stewardship of the W3C. I urge the W3C to drop the RAND
licensing proposal, and any other proposal that would entail a W3C
standard based on non-royalty free patents.

Andrew Hagen
Received on Thursday, 4 October 2001 21:43:45 UTC

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