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

RAND patents

From: Dan Devine <DanD@dxu.com>
Date: Thu, 18 Oct 2001 19:23:39 -0700
Message-ID: <5815E8F9C46BD311A9F0009027B6B9C484828B@ADMIN>
To: "'www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org'" <www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org>


I've found your site through a link from Slashdot, and wish to comment on
RAND patents vs. royalty free.

I believe strongly that the W3C should not endorse RAND patents, and wish to
challenge some of the underlying arguments for them.  I believe that the
arguments in favor of RAND patents are circular, and will ulitmatly lead to
the death of free communication on the Web in favor of total
comercialization/control by business interests.

"W3C recognizes that a Royalty-Free environment was essential to the growth
of the Web, and the contributions of the open source developer community
have been critical to its success. W3C also recognizes that software patents
exist (and patent issues have become more prevalent with the growth of the
Web), and ignoring them will do more harm than good."
The growth of software patents in conjunction with the Web has been mostly
due to the effort the of individual companies/firms to segment off and
de-comodotize the basic nature of the system.  By creating propriatary file
formats and transfer technology, individual companies position themselves as
"gatekeeper" and "fee-collector."  Even in it's benevolent form, this will
require the payment of royaties by each user.  While this is entirely normal
during the course of business, the W3C has no business endorsing or
legitimizing this process.  A better approach would be for the W3C to only
endorse patents which are either gauranteed to be "royalty free" for their
lifetime, and who's specifications are made public, or to endorse
open-source solutions such as "Ogg."  By not endorsing software patents
which do not gaurantee public access, the W3C is not ignoring them, simply
leaving it to the individual business's backing them to battle it out in the
marketplace.  Ultimatly, it is not the W3C's responsibility to ensure the
viability of any individual business, but the health of the Web as a whole.
By refraining from endorsing RAND patents and other software patents, the
business's involved are less likely to "fork" the web by creating
incompatable/competing technology.  This fact is one of the features that
has held the web together as long as it has, as evidenced by the standard
use of HTML and it's standard extensions.

4. Is RAND licensing common for bodies like W3C?
Yes. A RAND license is common among standards organizations.
This is an example of "chicken and egg" thinking.  Other standards bodies
have adopted this strategy because of the growth in the number of patents.
This (i.e. refering to other usage as a defense of the practice) in no way
legitimizes the process.  If this were an appropriate defense, the music
pirates and warz traders would have nothing to fear.  Other standards bodies
are also being lobbied by industry to adopt patented technology as
"standard" in an effort to promote their insertion as "gatekeeper."  Imagine
what would happen if ISO adopted a patented "thread pattern" as a standard
for fasteners, or if Siemens had the patent for all metric fasteners.  How
would this affect other businesses which need to use fasteners?  How would
this effect the development of devices that use fasteners?  How would this
effect the economy as a whole?  The benifits for Siemens in this example are
obvious, but the detriment to other companies in lost "opportunity costs"
cannot by it's nature be measured because you cannot "proove a negative."

Please resist the pressure that is being applied on behalf of the big
business interests.  These companies stand to gain from RAND patents and
other patented technology being turned into "standards."  Their gain will
come at the expense of Web business as a whole.  Because this cost cannot be
measured, it is easy to dismiss it.  Do not fall for this mistake.

Dan Devine
Received on Thursday, 18 October 2001 22:23:37 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Tuesday, 6 January 2015 21:06:45 UTC