W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org > January 2003

Do not accept "field of use" restriction

From: David Allouche <david@allouche.net>
Date: Tue, 31 Dec 2002 18:54:27 +0100
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-ID: <20021231175427.GY32329@nemesis.xlii.org>

Since its beginnings, the W3C has accomplished the respectable mission
of making the internet a place of freedom and equality were all
contributors, be they individuals, small or big businesses or
governements had similar abilities to publish and access information
and develop new tools leveraging the common infrastructure.

This longstanding policy has been one of the key factors in the
wonderful success of the Web as a media for speech and business.
Today, W3C has become for many technical and management people a seal
of quality ensuring interoperability and freedom. That is what makes
the W3C a successful organization. You know that when one bases its
projects on W3C recommandation, one produces useful tools which can be
used in all reasonable ways without fear of litigation.

The so called "field of use restriction" that the W3C plan to accept
for technologies used in its official recommandation will considerably
change the game. The problem is that the Web is not a closed system.
It is more and more interleaved with all fields of endeavour where
computing is involved. One of latest buzz-words in the telecom field
is "digital convergence". This convergence applies very much to Web
technologies too.

That means that any "field of use restriction" applicable to a W3C
recommandation makes its use a legal mine-field. As the limit between
computing and appliance, communication and networking, Web and
publishing blurs, the interpretation of the "field of use" will be
more and more arbitrary, making it a dreaded weapons for patent

The current trend in patenting in the software and business methods
field is appearing more and more as a way for businesses to prevent
smaller businesses from entering their market. Whether that is a
acceptable retribution for research and wether that stifles or promote
innovation is a debate I wish not to discuss.

However I do not believe that it is compatible with the W3C mission to
taint its recommandations by making them potentially harmful to small
businesses and individuals. The high respect you have earned in the
computing field, you may lose it when a few patent holders have used
the "field of use restriction" against competitors. The W3C is about
interoperability and legal safety for users of its recommandations. I
hope that you will be attentive to the lower traffic produced by this
new proposal compared to the "RAND" proposal last year.

Not every business or developer is aware of the problems involved in
"field of use restriction", but when they realize it the impact to the
W3C will be similar. People and organization will lose trust in your
recommandations. Then either web technologies will diverge, which will
be a disaster, or another organization will take the place you will
have leaved and will earn the trust you will have losed. Either way
that will be a failure for the W3C. Please do not do that.

Best wish and deeps regards.

David Allouche         | GNU TeXmacs -- Writing is a pleasure
Free software engineer |    http://www.texmacs.org
   http://ddaa.net     |    http://alqua.com/tmresources
   david@allouche.net  |    allouche@texmacs.org
TeXmacs is NOT a LaTeX front-end and is unrelated to emacs.
Received on Friday, 3 January 2003 04:31:34 UTC

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