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

Scenarios related to PPG Proposal

From: derek lane <derekglane@yahoo.com>
Date: Sun, 7 Oct 2001 12:34:31 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <20011007193431.27370.qmail@web12205.mail.yahoo.com>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
The PPG proposal might well be clarified by the following 
scenarios. Perhaps their use might clarify the alternatives.

1. GIF submarine. W3C ignores patents.
The W3C promulgates a standard which by some stretch
of legal imagination will require infringement of an
existing or future patent. Much open source/littleCo
work on the patented standard stops soon after the 
first successful "cease and desist letter" appears.
An alternate standard appears but is slowly implemented
because of de facto market share built by widespread
adoption by open source/littlecos.

This seems the status quo. Unisys has asserted patent
rights to various implementations of the GIF (non W3C
de facto standard). It has convinced at least Boutell
to make his drawing utilities non-gif compliant, with
follow-on effects in various dependent projects. An 
alternate implementation (libungif) appears still to 
be in use although I think Unisys could
send a similar nastygram to libungif's author(s).

PNG which is a better technical solution was created
by the Internet community and became a W3C standard
but has not been usable until very recently in 
widely used browsers.

Probably W3C spends at least some time avoiding famous
patents (Chris Lilley was intimately involved with PNG),
and has (Intermind on P3P) actively worked to kill 
submarine patents. The work that went into gzip's
work-around for the LZW patent hints at the cost and
complexity for a successful patent work-around.
Note that the gzip research, which was successful,
was apparently done by *one person*.

2. Disclosure required, with flexibility.

W3C goes thru some legal machinery to require members
to disclose patents required to implement one of its
standards. There are more clearly defined categories (RF)
and less (RAND) of license possibilities. A standard
comes with a collection of statements from w3C members
about how they will license patents. Some groups
remain chartered as RF thru promulgation, others
start or become RAND, and some patent claims exist at promulgation.

This is roughly the current PPG proposal.
After the MP3 fiasco, Open source/littleCo developers
run away from anything they imagine has patent encumbrance.
The "RAND" license on MP3 famously describes just how bad
RAND licenses can be. W3C can improve this by requiring 
members to describe their licensing terms at promulgation
(Chris Lilley's proposal). License terms like
"free for non-commercial use" run into the same
issues (aggreration, third-party distributor liability)
that lead to Linux' GNU licensing. LittleCo's run
away if the cost is higher than they can extract from
their users. The ITU experience from chuck weinberger 
suggests that RAND has potentially very bad consequences
for the standards making process.

3. RF licensing only. W3C attempts to find existing
or future patents and avoid them.

W3C only promulgates RF standards. RF is defined
to handle the requirements of GNU and other Open
Source licenses.

W3C as it moves into areas with existing patent holders
 wi(VoiceXML, streaming media) runs the risk of defining
unimplemented standards since the proprietary ones are
better. Open source/littleCo's will follow their
existing policy of implementing W3C based on technical 
merit or their interest. Small patent-related fud. 

W3C's standards have been ignored in the past (browser
wars/DOM) and can take some time to be implemented (XML,SVG)
or implemented well (CSS, DOM, CSS) but have generally 
improved interoperability. Some percentage of web users
do not care about interop. The web splits into non-W3C
standards with possibly company-controlled licenses and
broadly implemented RF standards from W3C and others.

Proprietary interests with their own standards are less
likely to participate in W3C standards groups since doing
so may damage their business plan. Experience from 
PDF and Flash has shown so far that large proprietary
standards often broadly license their technology in the 
interest of ubiquity. Lacking uniform RF licensing from
a known enitity, they suffer from a level of FUD and
typically do not become part of the code for mainstream

Existing non-W3C solutions (Flash, PDF,MP3 or 4) have no 
W3C sanction but may become de facto standards anyway.
Their probability of being widely implemented gets
determined by fit to various interests and published
business model.

To make clear my own stance, I prefer aggressive RF 
enforcement on W3C membership (dr_lenz) and at least
extra clarity for RAND (Lilley's proposal) with careful
drafting of RF so as to be compatible with common Open
Source licenses.

--Derek Lane
Just some guy

Do You Yahoo!?
NEW from Yahoo! GeoCities - quick and easy web site hosting, just $8.95/month.
Received on Sunday, 7 October 2001 15:34:33 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Tuesday, 6 January 2015 21:06:44 UTC