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

Last call working draft comments

From: Ward Vandewege <ward@pong.be>
Date: Tue, 31 Dec 2002 15:13:17 +0000
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-ID: <20021231151317.GA19703@countzero>
I'm very grateful for the tremendous amount of work that has gone into the
Royalty-Free Patent Policy. In addition to doing a Masters in Science and
Technology Policy, I'm a Software Consultant, and I use Free and Open
Software exclusively because that is the only way I can assure that I can
adapt the software I use to the specific needs of my clients.

I realize that a lot of work has gone into the current compromise, and I
really appreciate how the Patent Policy Working Group has listened to and
acted on the input of the public, and worked with Bruce Perens, Larry Rosen,
Eben Moglen, and others. The current compromise is laudable, and I realize it
may be the best we can get short of the W3C becoming irrelevant by being
bypassed altogether by corporate interests trying to establish a 'standard'.

However, I must admit I am worried about the 'field of use' clause in the
proposal. I'm afraid it will make the standards the W3C endorses rather
irrelevant, as they will be much less attractive for (grassroots) innovative
purposes. A short example to illustrate this point:

Imagine that the Internet Protocol (IP) was established under the RF
licensing requirements as proposed, and that it would only be RF when used on
the internet. Would we have seen the proliferation of IP as we see today? I
don't think so. Proprietary networks that have switched to IP would not have
done so, e.g. Novell would probably not have dumped IPX in favour of IP if
there was a royalty fee involved. Companies selling products that use IP
would have had to spend much time and effort also supporting proprietary
protocols they would understand less thoroughly because there would be much
less documentation and sample implementations, and they would be much harder
to come by. This would result in buggy implementations and/or much higher
overhead.  People unaffiliated with (big) corporations would not have used IP
for the thousands of innovations that they have come up with since, making
the marketplace even more fragmented.

Essentially, the more open the standard, the higher the chance it will become
widely used and accepted (given that there are no monopolistic factors that
work against it). This is something the creators of the Internet Protocol
understood well - they decidedly didn't try to foresee how the protocol would
be used, rightly realising they could never guess all future uses of their
innovation. Instead, they tried to remove as many barriers towards
unforeseen future use as they could, both technically (by making it totally
open and designing a 'stupid' network) and more relevant for this argument,
financially - no royalty fees whatsoever. The result is IP as we know it
today - omnipresent, unencumbered. Why limit the chances of open W3C
standards to become the most widely used, by allowing royalties for
unforeseen uses?

In the long run, I think this is in the interest of both (big) industry and
more independant developers. The value of having a pool of standards totally
unencumbered by Intellectual Property Rights, is that much more is available
for innovators to build on. In other words, barriers to innovation go down.
More innovations will be made, directly resulting in economic growth for
everyone involved. If we choose this road, everyone will benefit. If not,
only a few (large) entities will, and certainly not to a similar extent. In
that case, the world will be a much less interesting place for people with a
passion for technology...

Bye for now,
Ward Vandewege.

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Received on Friday, 3 January 2003 15:07:24 UTC

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