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Objection to patent policy

From: Anselm Hook <anselm@hook.org>
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2001 19:31:36 -0700 (MST)
To: <www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.BSO.4.33.0109301750560.30698-100000@webserver>

The W3C Patent Policy Framework Proposal is poor.  Statements referring to
the 'one click patent' or how the 'telecommunications industry has
flourished under patents' are ridiculous and disingenious.  Using a public
vehicle such as W3C represents in many peoples minds to promote products
that 'may be conditioned on payment' is a conflict of interest.
Statements suggesting that free is somehow lesser than non-free are not
looking at the individual right to resell 'free' as opposed to the loss of
that right when attempting to resell 'non-free'.

The W3C cannot support proprietary standards and still continue to be
trusted to reflect the public interest.  W3C Standards define a 'knowledge
commons' among human beings.  If these standards are held hostage to third
party interests then the community as a whole may suffer.

Fundamentally the issue here is that the value of standards is entirely
different from the value of inventions.  Both embody similar technical
aspects but the value of standards is in their mass adoption, not in any
of the technical methods or techniques used to devise them.

Standards define rules that people can live by; they're a guarantee of
certain qualities that all parties can conform to in order to minimize
interaction friction.  Standards enjoy a unique law of utility effect; the
more people that use them, the disproportionately higher their value
becomes according to a non-linear relationship.

Inventions on the other hand embody solely efficiencies in methods and
procedures.  An invention consists of a unique arrangement of parts to
solve a problem.  Inventions have a linear value; if they have a specific
utility to one person then the total utility is equal to the number of
instances of that invention.

A standard owned by a community expresses a higher total value than a
standard, or extension, owned by a single vendor.

The problem with even "reasonable and non-discriminatory" standards is
that the definition of reasonable is inadequate.  What is at one point
free may later becomes non-free.  This often seems to occur once
sufficient mass adoption has taken place and vested interests see an
opportunity to turn a profit.  Frank Herbert refers to this as "hydraulic
despotism".  Offer people a river, allow them to become dependent on it,
and then take it away and charge a tidy sum to the poor unfortunates who
were not wise enough to demand full and guaranteed ownership from the
start.

Free and for sale don't mix.

Let me put it this way: As a games developer I'd like to develop rich
media web games for a variety of operating systems.  As of today this is
difficult to do - Macromedia Flash is proprietary; owned by one
organization - creating any number of unknown liability issues.  Flash
players are not available across all platforms and the future direction of
Flash is unknown.  Scaleable Vector Graphics from W3C constitutes a
potential alternative, but it also appears to incorporate proprietary
extensions.  Does this mean that I have to license those extensions?
Does my legal counsel have to become involved in evaluating the
feasibility of my next entertainment title?  Do I have to advise my
investors about potential legal liabilities - thus hampering my investment
opportunities?  What happens if I want to sell a flash player as well as
just the content?  Do I have to pay or license technology?  Clearly, even
the whiff of legal issues creates barriers that dissuade developers from
going down these paths.  Given this example; just how much do proprietary
standards limit economic growth as a whole?

Recommendations:

1) Parties that want to submit standards to the W3C should be required by
the W3C to guarantee that those standards will remain in the public domain
ad-infinitum.  This includes extensions to those standards.

2) The W3C should reject standards that require proprietary components in
any part.

3) The W3C should seek to replicate proprietary intellectual portfolios in
a legal manner and thus liberate those technologies to benefit all people.

4) W3C should seek to overtun the software patenting structure by actively
working with the U.S. Government and the U.S. Patent Office.  Software
patents should either not exist or have a dramatically limited duration
without possibility of renewal.

5) There should be a public interest organization, with a specific charter
to protect the public interest, to whom the control of the standard is
assigned.  Said organization could be the W3C however some work would have
to be done to re-inspire confidence in the W3C as reflecting the public
interest and not the interests of the commercial advisory boards that
allowed this proposal to reach this stage.  Without broad public support
the W3C begins to look like the OpenGIS or OMG group - often reflecting
private interests and simply being another coalition of corporations
operating with a pretext of reflecting the public interest.

 - a
Received on Sunday, 30 September 2001 21:21:17 GMT

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