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

Proposed RAND licensing arrangements

From: Mike Brodbelt <m.brodbelt@acu.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2001 14:45:57 +0100
Message-ID: <3BC5A295.7D660F18@acu.ac.uk>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org

I have only recently (as, apparently have many others) become aware of
the W3C intentions with regard to its future patent policy. While I have
no argument with the right of a company to profit from its intellectual
property assets, I strongly oppose the W3C's stated intentions to permit
RAND licensing for W3C standards.

The first stated goal of the W3C is the provision of "Universal Access".
I cannot understand how such a laudable goal could possible be served by
permitting RAND licenses on IP required to implement W3C standards. This
would immediately reduce access to those who could afford the licensing
fees.

The web has, since it's inception been a communications medium open to
all. To permit it to devolve into yet another piece of corporate owned
real-estate would be tantamount to criminal. Permitting RAND licenses
would serve only to freeze out implementors who cannot or will not
license essential technology. The Open Source movement, historically the
technology that has built the web, would suffer enormous harm from this,
as many Open Source projects cannot use licensed technology, by their
very nature.

I would ask that the W3C places at least the following absolute
requirements on members of Working Groups:-

1/ Contributors to the W3C standards process must be compelled to
disclose Intellectual Property claims that may impinge on standards that
result from that process, with particular reference to patents.

2/ It should be a requirement of participation that patent holders
clarify their position as to whether disclosed patents are "essential
technology" for implementations based on any W3C recommendation or
standard. Apple's current silence as to whether their patent represents
essential technology for implmentations of SVG is completely
unacceptable.

3/ It should be possible for any company or person to freely access the
W3C's specification of their technology standards, and, furthermore,
they should be able to impelement these standards in the certain
knowledge that they require no additional permission to do so. To that
end, any "essential technology" necessary for implementation of a W3C
standard must, if patented, be available on Royalty Free terms. The RAND
terms dicussed are clearly unacceptable, precluding as they do, the
development of Open Source implementations of W3C standards. The removal
of support for the GIF image format from many open source toolkits
should be ample evidence that non royalty-free licenses effectively
prevent open source implementations. Open standards require that open
implementations be possible, and RAND licensing would prevent this.

Participation in the W3C must, when all is said and done, be about the
promotion of open standards for an open web. As such, W3C members should
be happy to provide royalty free licenses for patented technology
included in W3C standards, in support of the open standards needed for
the growth of the World Wide Web. To provide licenses on anything less
than RF terms is a clear impediment to the implementation and adoption
of the standards the W3C exists to promote.

If the W3C presses forward with the proposed RAND conditions, I will be
joining the growing group calling for the Open Source community to fork
the standards, and press for non patent-encumbered alterntives to be
adopted instead of W3C standards. I sincerely hope the necessity for
this does not come about. The W3C has always stood for openness and
universal access - please do not now change this to the detriment of all
web users.

Mike Brodbelt.
Received on Thursday, 11 October 2001 09:48:03 GMT

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