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

No to RAND

From: David Wright <ichbin@shadlen.org>
Date: Wed, 10 Oct 2001 03:48:09 -0700
Message-ID: <3BC42769.7010306@shadlen.org>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
The goal of patent law is to provide economic incentives, in the form of 
monopoly rents, for the development of new technologies. If such 
incentives were unnecessary for the development of new technologies, the 
public good would clearly best be served without these monopoly rents. 
When asking whether the W3C should endorse patented technologies as web 
standards, we should therefore ask ourselves: ARE MONOPOLY RENTS 
NECESSARY TO SPUR THE DEVELOPMENT OF INTERNET STANDARDS?

History's answer to this question is clear: NOT AT ALL

Every internet standard which has survived in the long run has been 
essentially patent-free: TCP/IP, SMTP, HTTP, etc... By way of contrast, 
  essentially every propriatry standard has eventually fallen by the 
wayside (e.g. Token Ring, Appletalk, NetBIOS). GIF and RSA could be 
sited as exceptions, but note that, as soon as the relevant 
patent-holders began to enforce their rights, groups formed 
spontaneously to develop superior, patent-free alternatives (e.g. PNG 
and Blowfish).

Given this argument, one is forced to conclude that the W3C's RAND 
proposal is meant to serve its corporate members' interests rather than 
the public good. This is unfortunate, if understandable. But this 
attempt is misguided, because even the logic of profit maximization 
alone should still lead one to reject the RAND proposal! Why?

Because history shows there is plenty of money to be made in internet 
industries, but there is very little money to be made on internet 
standards. Indeed, the attempt make profits on the second can only 
hinder the growth that fuels the much large profit growth from the first.

So please, whether out of altruism or selfishness, reject propriatary 
internet standrards!
Received on Wednesday, 10 October 2001 06:48:35 GMT

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