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RE: [xml-dev] standards vs. the public

From: Bullard, Claude L (Len) <clbullar@ingr.com>
Date: Tue, 9 Oct 2001 09:04:16 -0500
Message-ID: <2C61CCE8A870D211A523080009B94E43067495FD@HQ5>
To: "Steven R. Newcomb" <srn@coolheads.com>, jborden@mediaone.net
Cc: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org, xml-dev@lists.xml.org
The position makes sense.  Still look at the probable 
outcomes:

1.  Technology for which no patents exist is likely 
to be research.  There is typically a ten year span 
from lab to shelf for this.  No standard is needed. 
A specification for such that speeds that up or 
forces convergence can be a useful artifact.

2.  Technology for which patents exist is likely 
to be past research and into productization.  For 
this, some investment of resources has occurred. 
The holder of this intellectual property has to 
decide how to recoup this or donate it in the 
public interest which may or may not coincide 
with the interests of the holder.   This is 
an individual decision.

3.  Should the W3C decide to work on an item 
1 technology, the problems are not patents.  
Should the W3C decide to work on an item 2 
technology, it cannot force a member to surrender 
its intellectual property rights.  If the holder 
does not relinquish rights or offer an RF agreement, it 
can only work around a patent or declare such 
technology out of bounds for W3C specifications. 
It is possible that the workaround may result in 
a lower quality technology that has to take its 
chance in the marketplace, or it may result in a 
superior technology.  Either result is reasonable.

4.  Market will greatly influenced by the research 
of these companies and those that want to use that 
influence will patent as fast as they can to maintain 
control of the decision.  Since it is possible that 
many patentable items will be in the higher levels 
of technology, patents and proprietary applications 
will abound.   This is also a reasonable outcome.

The issue which undergirds many of the 
arguments is cost.  Tim Bray mentions the "toll" 
to get on the Internet.  Others talk about open 
source as if it were a free goldmine for those 
that can exploit the potential (eg, RedHat). 
For the underfunded developer, open source and 
royalty free standards and specifications are a 
means to become BigCos (again, RedHat).  However, 
the cost of creating these is still real and 
in some cases, significant.   One has to ask 
if the public interest is a compelling enough 
argument to require a company that finances its 
research and receives patents to support the 
RedHats of the world.

The other issue is complexity.  Complexity is 
an effective barrier to entry into a market. 
We are all aware of the issues with SGML/HyTime 
that drove some developers to simpler alternatives. 
Some years later, these developers discover that 
the simpler solutions lead to the same complexity 
over time.   Without the enormous publicity and 
developer buyin for the simpler but underpowered 
specifications, emergence is slowed but favors 
the funded developer.   So unless the W3C can 
focus on simpler specifications, the underfunded 
developer is still at a disadvantage regardless 
of the RF status.   The advantage of RF to them 
is to receive gratis, the work of the funded 
companies or the large and sometimes difficult 
to market open source work.   Pursuit of RF 
for any standard or specifcation once again 
leads to the holder making the hard business 
decision to donate a resource and in some 
cases, enable its competitor.

While it is good to do "the right thing" it 
will come back again and again to what Simone 
asks:  "good for whom?".   By insisting on 
RF, we are limiting the options of the W3C 
and that can have reasonable outcomes.  It 
will not of necessity lead the web to its 
full potential unless that potential admits 
the very real possibility that the profitable 
parts of that potential are proprietary and 
require licensing or outright purchase.  In 
this case, the underfunded developer may 
have roughly the same dilemma, but be cut 
out of the option to compete with the same 
technology that a smaller royalty would 
have enabled.

The public, that is the Internet users, 
will have the products in either case and 
the public good will have been served.

len

-----Original Message-----
From: Steven R. Newcomb [mailto:srn@coolheads.com]
Sent: Monday, October 08, 2001 5:47 PM
To: jborden@mediaone.net
Cc: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org; xml-dev@lists.xml.org
Subject: [xml-dev] standards vs. the public


The proposed patent policy demands discussion of the
basis on which the policy is being proposed and
defended.  How is the public interest served (or, as
the case may be, not served) by this policy?

  "The only reason you should work on information
  interchange standards is because you don't already
  control the market."

I think this rather crass statement is appropriate,
given the current situation.  It grieves me.  I wish it
were not so.

It would be much better for everyone, including the
standards-makers, if they would all use their
considerable skills to serve the public.  A "standard"
should be carefully designed to enjoy the wholehearted
support of an enlightened public.
Received on Tuesday, 9 October 2001 10:05:47 GMT

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