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

paid royalties for standards which use patents

From: Leon Harris <leon@quoll.com>
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2001 21:59:35 +0800
Message-ID: <3BB72547.E6213AE1@quoll.com>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
This is a very poor idea. It makes it harder for small companies  and
talented developers, while increasing the power of the larger companies
to unacceptable levels. Since the market power of the larger companies
increases at a rate which is faster than the rate that they contribute
technological inovation to the marketplace ( compare the proportion of
IT patents MS owns to its market share) , you are engineering a system
that will run on a winner-take-all basis.  After a company has reached a
critical mass of patents in a particular area ( say desktop end user
software) it could gain the ability to suppress and direct development
in separate but related areas. By taking a salami approach to their
patenting ( patenting the technology into the largest number of small
units possible ) they can slow the R&D of any competitor who needs to
use these components, and in addition get market intelegence of their
competitiors upcoming innovation, theirby gaining the chance to scoop
them.  This suppresses inovation, and creativity, and damages the
software and IT markets.

My big problem with W3C is why it would consider this ? As I see it, the
current marketplace requires standards and certification of each major
new technology, in order for that technology to penetrate into the
market. The big guys need W3C to endorse them.
Do you remember the bums rush we all gave proprietary format email
software when RFC821 software started shipping ? Do you remember how
cautious we all were to make sure that our apps were all standards
compliant ?

The limiting factor in deployment of technology to the market place is
still finding the technical talent to implement it. That means generally
small IT companies servicing small to medium business.  This hurts that
sector of the market. The requirement of fees for access to http and
html standards would have slowed the uptake of these - we would probably
still be using gopher - because it was mostly good enough - and a slew
of 3rd partly approaches to render content gopher could deliver in a
more friendly manner. Each would be slightly different, interoperability
would be affected, and the market would be a worse place.

Now it is patently obvious that current governments cannot regulate
anticompetative activity when faced with large companies: The US govt
has miserably failed against Microsoft - they just are unable to
withstand the political heat that a large corporation can bring against
them ( can you say campaign donation?). This isn't a one off either -
the Australian govt has failed miserably in its prevention of dumping
and anticompetative behaviour in the airline industry, thereby resulting
in the collapse of a national airline (Impulse).  So why are you at the
W3C giving in ? You have great negotiating power. I wonder, has this
just come out of the blue or is it part of a years-long campaign by some
of your members.

Once one big company starts playing hardball with patents, you end up
with a patent race - ie everyone has to play hardball.  Put it another
way - when one of the guests at the party turns off the music, everyone
must scramble for the chairs, and anyone without enough patent mass to
participate doesn't get to sit down and is liable to be excluded from
playing in the game. Fewer players, less diversity, less incentive to
innovate. In this case, the rate of innovation gets determined by the
lifespan of the patent protection. Scary. I hope you chose wisely.
Received on Sunday, 30 September 2001 09:59:41 GMT

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