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

Incorporating patented technology in W3C standards is a bad idea

From: Evelio Perez-Albuerne <thoth256@us.net>
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2001 17:06:26 -0400
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-ID: <3BB75112.4132.1D7BCBE@localhost>
Dear W3C:

I strongly believe that the proposal to allow patented technologies 
to be included in W3C stadards is an extremely bad idea which 
should be resoundingly rejected. 

Reasons in summary format:

1) Would weaken W3C in relation to individual companies seeking 
'capture' a standard

2) Would lead to rise of rival non-patent-encumbered standards and 
subsequent standards "war"

3) Would discourage innovation and widespread adoption of new 
technologies in the future

4) Would violate the W3C stated principles of vendor neutrality and 
consensus. 

5) Would significantly discriminate against people in poorer 
countries, violating the W3C's stated goal of universal access to 
the Web.

In more detail:

1) Would weaken W3C in relation to individual companies seeking 
'capture' a standard

Companies have used proprietary 'standard' to lock in customers 
and extract maximum revenue from them since the earliest days of 
commercial information technology. Absent strong countervailing 
demands from users/developers or (more recently) the presence of 
an open-source alternative, companies will try to add proprietary 
extensions to standards, with a goal of "capturing" the standard so 
that they, rather than a vendor-neutral organization defines the de 
facto standard that end users and developers actually use.

Examples include the numerous proprietary HTML tags that 
Microsoft and Netscape introduced during the "browser wars" of the 
late 90's, and Microsoft's attempts to "embrace and extend" Java.

Allowing patented technologies to be incorporated in standards 
would greatly strengthen the hand of the company that holds the 
patent at the expense of the standards organization. The company 
has substantial leverage in the form of the licensing terms with 
which to influence the future course of the standard.

2) Would lead to rise of rival non-patent-encumbered standards and 
subsequent standards "war"

There exist a large number of developers (of whom I am one) who 
have serious doubts about the entire concept of IP as applied to 
standards and software. Most of the participants in the open-
source movement are at least partially motivated by this 
philosophy, and this group has demonstrated its ability to pull off 
large software development efforts (e.g. Linux, Apache). Given this, 
it is inevitable that any W3C standard that was encumbered by a 
patent would quickly face a rival open standard that was not patent-
encumbered, and there would be a large developer group ready to 
write the code to implement the rival standard. At the very least, 
this would lead to a period of confusion while the rival standards 
fought it out, and at worst, it could result in the permanent 
existance of incompatible standards. 

Since such a situation is the exact opposite of goals the W3C 
exists to promote, the organization must not adopt patent-
encumbered standards.

3) Would discourage innovation and widespread adoption of new 
technologies in the future.

Regardless of how 'reasonable' RAND terms are, they still will 
impose additional costs when people are deciding whether or not to 
use new standards. Fundamental economics (as well as common 
sense) dictates that this will result in slower adoption of new 
technologies and less experimentation among developers. Since 
most current Internet technologies started out as small projects 
pushed by individual or small groups of developers, allowing patent-
encumbered standards will likely have a major impact on future 
innovation and the development of new Internet applications.

4) Would violate the W3C stated principles of vendor neutrality and 
consensus. 

The violation of vendor neutrality is obvious, since adoption of any 
patnet encumbered standard will favor the company or companies 
that hold the patent(s).

It is clear from reading the message forums on which comments 
have been posted that opinion is running very strongly against the 
proposal. In fact, I was unable to find a single comment supporting 
the proposal. Adoption of the proposed change in the face of such 
overwhelming grass-roots opposition would clearly signal that the 
W3C was not about consensus, but had been captured by 
corporate interests.

5) Would significantly discriminate against people in poorer 
countries, violating the W3C's stated goal of universal access to 
the Web.

Even RAND terms that individuals or companies in developed 
countries would find easy to pay for are very likely to be beyond the 
reach of individuals in poorer countries. The would violate the 
W3C's stated goal of universal access.

I hope that the W3C can stay true to its stated goals and principles 
by rejecting the current proposal, and reaffirming that open 
standards must truly be open - free for all to use without being 
encumbered by patents or any other IP restriction.

Regards,





Evelio Perez-Albuerne
evelio@ultradrive.com
http://www.ultradrive.com
Received on Sunday, 30 September 2001 17:06:39 GMT

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