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

FW: RAND licensing proposal.

From: Doug Dingus <doug@acuityinc.com>
Date: Tue, 9 Oct 2001 13:33:05 -0700
Message-ID: <55A337FA5522D511828900105A0A327C1009EC@LUTHER>
To: "'www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org'" <www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org>

	I am compelled to write you all today about your recent efforts
toward a new Patent Policy Framework which could allow W3C members to charge
royalty fees for technologies included in web standards.

	In particular, I object to the inclusion of a "reasonable and
non-discriminatory" (RAND) licensing option in the proposed policy.  As the
policy draft is currently written, the RAND clauses do discriminate against
Open Source developers.  RAND style licensing also discriminates against
those who, in the future, would participate in the development of new and
possibly innovative technology. 

	We need Open Source to be able to continue to develop and mature.
It is an effective check against the harm a closed propriatary internet will
do to this industry and its end-users.  The standards for the internet of
today provide only the basic infrstructure needed for communication and
development of the future.  Its open nature has served us well.  This should
not change as we move into the future.  Why would we?  What we have now
works well, the only ones who benefit from patent encumbered standards are
those who own the patents!  The rest of us just stand to lose with each RAND
agreement made.  

	There are a lot of interests right now looking to mold the internet
into something that benefits them.  This RAND licensing proposal is one of
the tools that they intend to use toward that goal.  While realizing new
technology development is important for the long term economic success of
the internet, we also must remember who the internet serves and how it was
built in the first place.  Without Open Standards supported by Open Source
code, many of these same interests looking to own their piece of the
internet, would have little or nothing to contribute to a closed
commercial-only internet.  

	Innovation is also needed to drive the industry forward with new
products, services and education.  Licensing key technologies, then defining
them as being standard does two unhealthy things.  First it assigns control
of said technology to those who own it.  Secondly it dictates that the rest
of us must use it regardless of its actual merit.  These two effects work to
stifle innovation, not promote it.  Given the current law-making trend, it
is not much of a stretch to say that it would be illegal in many places in
the world to even try to develop or discuss an improved compatable

	Given these observations, what then is driving the owner of the
standard to improve, or at a minimum serve its users interests?  Will they
do it for our (the internet community as a whole) benefit, or for theirs?
It is also again not too much of a stretch to imagine a situation in the
near future that involves two companies, one with the entrenced standard,
and the other with a new standard that depends on the entrenched one
(because of the patents.)  If the new standard is disruptive to the revenue
generated by the existing one, what incentive does the owner of the
entrenched standard have to modify or otherwise allow the development of the
new one?  What about platform issues?  OSS development is responsible for a
lot of cross-platform development that enables products and services to
reach almost anyone regardless of their choice of computing platform.  Will
owners of patent encumbered standards support OSS ports to other platforms
and operating systems?  Will they still do it if one of those alternatives
becomes a threat to their revenue? 

	Rather than invite this tangled legal mess (which in and of itself
is discriminatory toward OSS development) into the internet, we should keep
it open and simple where all parties involved can participate as users or
developers or both.  Patent encumbered standards belong with products that
their owners can market to end-users based on their merits, not their
requirements as "standards".  Any other solution is not practical in the
longer term because there will always be a conflict of interest between the
owners of the exising standards and those who will innovate.  This conflict
will not serve the future users of the internet anywhere near as well as the
competition in an open Internet would.

I will support any Open Standard that is proposed in the future at the
expense of patent encumbered ones, even if it costs a little more for me to
do so.

Keep patents off the web (please).  --We don't need the hassle.

Doug Dingus
Applications Engineer / Trainer
Acuity Inc.  Portland, Oregon
Received on Tuesday, 9 October 2001 16:41:20 UTC

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