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

New public W3 standards involving RAND licensing conditions.

From: m.Lund <m.lund@12move.nl>
Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2001 00:06:02 +0200
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-Id: <20011010220327.DB19E37506@pandora.tiscali.nl>
Public standards serve the public by providing compatibility. Public standards are established as a public framework for the companies in order to achieve such compatibility. 
Patents are used to protect methods and devices that will help the companies in providing compatible products according to the standards. Patented matter should not form 
part of the actual standards, as the standards would then no longer be publicly applicable. Standards involving proprietary matters would serve a business-interest of the 
parties having proprietary matter included and force other parties to pay royalties in order to be compatible.

One scenario; One integral W3C standard involving proprietary matter licensed under RAND-conditions: The large contributors of proprietary matter to the standard will 
cross-license with one another and avoid paying royalties, other users of the standard will have to pay-up to their competitors in order to comply, and thus compete under 
uneven conditions. The uneven competition will be difficult for most of those who have to pay, and for open source software development an unacceptable burden as a 
new, significant element of costs is introduced on them. I guess they will have to form a new organization to develop the free part of the web as W3C will develop the 
established commercial part.
For owners of proprietary matter being included in the standard, an easy source of income is created. An income that may quickly become important due to the vast usage of 
such standards. W3C will be confronted with the task of having to balance very strong economical interest from the individual companies in having as much proprietary 
matter as possible of theirs included in the standard, in order to maximize the revenue from royalties. The members of the comities deciding on the standard are likely to be 
put under strong "influence" from these companies, and one may fear that little interest will remain in the web-users and their need for features of benefit to them.

A second scenario: A hybrid standard in the form of a basic, free standard involving no royalties and non-compulsory options in the form of proprietary matter included as 
packages, that optionally may be conformed with. For the cross-license holders no costs are involved. For other users significant costs are related with compliance to all 
packages, and compliance with only some packages or even none of the optional packages are likely to be chosen by many smaller companies. Though all users still 
comply with the compulsory part of the standard, a bit of a mess is created with a large variety of different packages being implemented. Perhaps many companies are then 
better off with the development of the standard in a more limited, compulsory form without options.

A third scenario: A compulsory, free standard involving no royalties. Certain technology, that for some people would have been "nice to have available on the web" may not 
be given free to use and the web may be used to a slightly less extent of its potential. Owners of protected technology for the web may of course still introduce their 
improved technology on the web against payment from those interested, but a general acceptance of such supplementary, proprietary technology are only likely to take 
place in few cases. The user of the web, however will find a high degree of compatibility being desirable to him, and the companies complying with the standard will compete 
on equal grounds. One standardizing body will remain.

My personal recommendation will be for W3C to remain the single body that establishes free public standards for the web.
It is my impression that the tremendous success of the web is based in the fact, that it provides free information fast. RAND-based standards will remain fast but are likely not 
to remain free as the cost for the royalties have to be covered. The bill are likely to end with the web-users, and I guess a large number users are likely to support the free-
web part in an eventual split of the web in two; with a free and a commercial part. On the hardware side, the fate of the well performing MicroChannel technology (IBM tm) is 
still remembered, and attempts of creating separate, commercial parts of the web by very large internet companies have failed in general.

The choice between a commercial or a free web will not be easy and will in all cases leave somebody unhappy. 
Good luck.  
Received on Wednesday, 10 October 2001 18:22:46 UTC

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