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

The argument against patented protocols is not ideological, it is pragmatic

From: Russell Sears <sears.42@osu.edu>
Date: Fri, 5 Oct 2001 12:05:10 -0500
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-Id: <01100512051000.18513@kisa>
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Some media outlets (such as C|Net in this story: 
http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-7412848.html) paint the argument against 
standards that rely upon patents as an ideological battle, with no pragmatic 
importance.

This could not be further from the truth.

Use of standard communication protocols should not be subject to fees!  This 
would hamper electronic communication and eventually make standards-compliant 
products such as apache and linux illegal (At least in their fully-functional 
forms).  

This open source software has dramatically lowered costs in many industries, 
and has contributed to recent economic growth.  If you increase the cost of 
operations for businesses involved in telecommunications, you greatly hamper 
their ability to compete in the market.

Even with reasonable fees for these patents, you will force law-abiding 
companies to move to expensive, proprietary, and sometimes un-maintainable 
systems, which will cause more damage than the actual patent charges ever 
could.

If you must charge for the usage of basic internet protocols, I suggest that 
you mandate that the price of a patent liscence be proportional to the 
Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price of the software system.  This would 
allow independent programmers to develop software for internal use without 
fear of legal repercussion, and also allow the open-source movement to 
continue to contribute to the usefulness of W3C compliant protocols.

If you don't, I can only see two results from this proposal:

1) Development of communications infrastructure will be pushed into areas 
without patent enforcement, in the same way that encryption and security 
software projects have begun to move outside of the US.  At that point, users 
will simply download the software from overseas sites, or base their 
operations in areas with more advantagous laws.

or

2) Patent-free / patent-bypassing alternatives to your protocols will be 
developed, hampering communication between various organizations, and 
undermining the authority of the W3C, and eventaully making these 
royalty-based proposals irrelevant, and causing numerous compatibility 
nightmares.

You can argue about how wide-spread these effects will be, but I don't think 
you can honestly deny that this sort of thing will happen.

Personally, I would rather see the internet to continue to "just work."

- -Russell Sears
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Received on Friday, 5 October 2001 11:56:36 GMT

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