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Part I: General Comments

From: Steve Waldman <swaldman@mchange.com>
Date: Fri, 05 Oct 2001 21:43:39 +0200
Message-ID: <3BBE0D6B.3030601@mchange.com>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
I thank the W3C Patent Policy Working Group for their work in taking on
a very challenging and contentious set of issues. However, I oppose the 
draft policy in its current form.

The Draft Framework seems motivated by two very laudable goals:

1) Clarity - The ubiquity of software patents present implementers
              of W3C standards with the uncertain hazard of
              unintentional infringement. A policy that diminishes
              this hazard by ensuring implementors know "up front"
              where patented technology will be essential and under
              what terms they may use this technology without
              infringing is certainly desirable.

2) Excellence - Ideally W3C standards ought to represent the best
                 possible approach to whatever problem W3C is
                 attempting to solve, irrespective of patent

The draft PPF requires disclosure of relevant patents and explicit 
statements regarding licensing in an attempt to create greater clarity 
about the impact of any patents on a WWC proposal. It allows for 
specifications to be developed that require the use of patented 
technology, in pursuit of excellence.

There is another W3C goal that the proposal addresses, primarily 
implicitly and unfortunately inadequately. That, of course, is the goal 
of openness. The draft PPF acknowledges that specifications that require 
patented technology are by definition not free and open. It attempts to 
balance openness and excellence by requiring patented technology be made 
available to all comers under one of two sets of terms it deems 
acceptable, "Royalty Free" or "RAND" ("Reasonable and Nondiscriminatory").

Many writers have argued forcefully why "RAND" terms are insufficiently 
open to be of use to large and important comunities of World Wide Web 
stakeholders. I won't rehash those arguments, but I agree with them. For 
these communities, there is no balance at all here between openness and 
excellence: however technologically excellent the standard, RAND 
specifications will be closed off, out of reach, and of no use, to many 
people. Such specifications could potentially cause great harm by 
fragmenting and misdirecting the energies of the larger WWW community.

There are other ways that W3C might attain sufficient lattitude to 
produce excellent standards without excluding important communities from 
the use of those standards. Alternative approaches exist that might 
displease some patent holders, but that do not infringe upon their legal 
rights, and that exclude no one. W3C must show the courage to put the 
interests of the larger WWW community above the preferences of a small 
but powerful group of stakeholders.

A concrete alternative to the current draft follows as part two of this 

               Steve Waldman
Received on Friday, 5 October 2001 14:42:54 UTC

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