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

Re: W3C Patent Policy Framework

From: David Leppik <david@leppik.net>
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2001 14:19:04 -0500
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-Id: <20010930191907.2050A81A3@corb.mc.mpls.visi.com>
The Working Draft was brought to my attention today, so please excuse 
what has been a rather hasty reading of the document.  I applaud your 
efforts to have a clear process for discovering and handling patents as 
part of the W3 Process.  However, I have some serious disagreements with 
the RAND licensing terms.  The problem with RAND as it is currently 
written is that it does not allow for open source implementations.

As a developer, I find open source tools to often be the most important 
ones I bring to a project.  This is due to the ease with which they can 
be evaluated and brought into a project as well as the guarantee that I 
will be able to deploy them no matter what happens to the creator of the 
tools.  They also place an unchanging floor on the deployment cost of 
that component and allow me to deploy without waiting for license 
negotiations to finish.  In particular, Apache.org is usually the first 
place I and my coworkers go when we need third-party software. It is 
valuable to be able to prototype all parts on Linux and deploy on Linux, 
Solaris or Windows, depending on my client's needs.

While I recognize the argument that RAND is tolerable for application 
layer services, I have to disagree.  When I'm writing an application, I 
use components at all levels.  Application layer software has a tendency 
to creep into server software for various purposes.  For example, a 
graphics reader may be needed to convert an image to a different format 
or to modify the image.

I am also concerned about developing standards which are usable 
world-wide.  Users in many parts of the world do not have the money to 
pay for commercial software.  Many countries do not have the legal 
infrastructure to enforce patent laws.  Open source software allows them 
to be first-class citizens on the World Wide Web, both as content 
producers and consumers.  It can also allow them to localize software.  
If all the software which uses a particular W3 standard is produced by a 
few primarily American companies, many languages and cultures will be 
shut out because localization wouldn't be cost effective.  This makes 
the standard less of a world-wide standard and more of an industry 

I recommend one of the following changes:

1.  Explicitly spell out the situations under which a RAND license is 
acceptable.  I think the license is acceptable when all components have 
RF alternatives.  For example, a PNG file may be written or read using 
RAND algorithms-- and the best compression algorithms may even be 
proprietary-- but PNG files can be written using RF algorithms, while RF 
PNG readers can read any PNG file.

2.  Require that all RAND licenses allow anyone to create a royalty-free 
open source implementations of the Recommendation, or to release an 
implementation under such a license.

My second recommendation is probably the more workable.  Commercial, 
closed-source software would still require license payments.  By using a 
restrictive license such as GPL, patent holders could maximize the use 
of royalty-paying implementations.  It would, for example, allow me to 
prototype my software with a GPL-based library but only sell it using a 
commercial library.  Care must be taken, however, to make sure that the 
licenses RAND would allow are truly open source and compatible with 
other open source software.

Again, I thank you for your efforts to make a sound, workable patent 
policy and wish you luck.

David Leppik

David Leppik                                     
Received on Sunday, 30 September 2001 15:19:12 UTC

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