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

Proposal for defining acceptability of RAND licensing model.

From: David Woodhouse <dwmw2@infradead.org>
Date: Fri, 05 Oct 2001 13:43:49 +0100
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-ID: <12503.1002285829@redhat.com>
While there are many of us who deplore the practice of granting patents for
software methods and algorithms, it is an unhappy fact of life that these 
patents _are_ possible in some parts of the world, and unfortunately this 
affects us all.

Therefore, it is necessary for the W3C to address the issue of software
patents and construct a formal policy, rather than just sticking its head in
the sand and ignoring the issue. To pursue the latter course of (in)action
would simply lead to further problems with 'surprise' patents such as the
one covering the GIF format.

However, there is a grave danger that by recognising and regulating the use
of patented technology in web standards, the W3C appears to legitimise that

The current draft of the W3C Patent Policy Framework document appears to
place the RAND and RF licensing models on an equal footing; thereby
encouraging the use of RAND licensing where the previous informal policy was
more inclined to favour RF standards.

This change in emphasis appears to be in direct conflict with the stated
goals of the W3C, which I quote:

   1. Universal Access: To make the Web accessible to all by promoting
      technologies that take into account the vast differences in culture,
      education, ability, material resources, and physical limitations of
      users on all continents;
   2. Semantic Web : To develop a software environment that permits each
      user to make the best use of the resources available on the Web;
   3. Web of Trust : To guide the Web's development with careful 
      consideration for the novel legal, commercial, and social issues
      raised by this technology.

Each one of these three goals leads unequivocally to the conclusion that the 
W3C must resist the use of patent-encumbered technology in web standards; 
however this being the real world we must accept that sometimes it will be 
necessary to allow such use.

Therefore, while it is appropriate for the W3C to define the terms which are
considered the _minimum_ acceptable level for licensing of patented
technology and methods, it should be made clear that such RAND licensing
schemes are to be considered a last resort, to be accepted only when there
is no possibility of a timely RF solution to a given problem space.

I therefore propose that the Patent Policy Framework draft be modified
accordingly, by adding two new requirements to the existing process of 

In order for a Last Call Working Draft involving RAND-licensed technology to
be advanced to Candidate Recommendation or Proposed Recommendation, two
further conditions must be met in addition to those currently required:

 - the technical report must have held the status of 'Last Call Working 
   Draft' for a period of no less than eighteen months prior to the

 - the Director must be satisfied that there is no possibility of an
   alternative Royalty-Free solution for the same problem space being
   developed within a reasonable amount of time.

These additional requirements. possibly coupled with further clear guidance 
that RF-licensed solutions are to be favoured above RAND-licensed 
alternatives, would ensure that the stated goals of the W3C 
remain intact, while regulating and recognising the use of patented 
technology in Recommendations where it is necessary to do so.

Received on Friday, 5 October 2001 08:43:50 UTC

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