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Patent Licensing Issues for the VoiceXML 2.0 Standard

From: Daniel E. Maddux <dpaladin@hal-pc.org>
Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 23:50:46 -0500 (EST)
Message-ID: <3BDF8533.CE7BEAA0@hal-pc.org>
To: www-voice@w3.org
World Wide Web Consortium
Voice Browser Working Group
www-voice@w3.org

Dear W3C Voice Browser Working Group:

I am submitting these comments in response to Janet Daly's request for
comments posted to SLASHDOT on October 23rd
(http://slashdot.org/articles/01/10/23/2041217.shtml).  Specifically, I
am responding to Ms. Daly's request for comments on the *Patent
Licensing* issues arising out of the disclosure and licensing statements
made regarding the Voice Browser Working Group ("VBWG") and the VoiceXML
2.0 Working Draft.  For the following reasons, I support the W3C's
current Patent Policy of  Royalty-Free ("RF") Licensing and oppose
Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory ("RAND") Licensing of Patents that
read on the VoiceXML 2.0 Working Draft.

1. The VBWG should maintain the Status Quo - RF Licensing

RF Licensing is the W3C's current Patent Policy (see my Comments to the
Patent Policy at
http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-patentpolicy-comment/2001Oct/1398.html).
Since RF Licensing is the W3C's current Patent Policy, the VBWG should
continue to follow the W3C's current Patent Policy.

2. The issue of RF versus RAND Patent Licensing is premature

The issue of RF versus RAND Patent Licensing is premature.  The Patent
Policy Working Group ("PPWG") has not yet established a new Policy for
patent licensing (See http://www.w3.org/2001/ppwg).  Since the PPWG has
not yet established a new Policy for patent licensing, the VBWG may have
to re-charter and re-debate this issue if the PPWG establishes a new
Policy on patent licensing.  Since  the VBWG may have to re-charter and
re-debate this issue if the PPWG establishes a new Policy on patent
licensing, the issue of RF versus RAND Patent Licensing is premature.
Since the issue of RF versus RAND Patent Licensing is premature, the
VBWG should wait to see if the PPWG establishes its Policy before
changing its patent licensing policy from RF to another patent licensing
scheme.

3. RAND Licensing will destroy Open-Source Software on the Web

RAND Licensing of patents covering the VoiceXML 2.0 Standard will
prevent Open-Source developers from writing software for the Standard.
The cost of a license just for IBM's patents is around US$40,000 for the
VoiceServer software (See the response to Janet Daly's post, entitled
"Who needs royalties?" by fonebone at
http://slashdot.org/articles/01/10/23/2041217.shtml) [NOTE that another
Poster, pdqlamb "With patents, W3C doesn't need to approve", cites a
license fee of about US$10,000 for each corporation.  However, pdqlamb
does not provide supporting evidence for how he/she arrived at this
amount.  Therefore, I discount pdqlamb's royalty figure for purposes of
this discussion.].  And this price is just for 1 company/W3C Member.
According to the VBWG's Voice Browser Patent Statements, 8 members of
the W3C (Avaya Communications, Cisco Systems, IBM, Motorola, Nokia,
Phillips, Rutgers University, and Telera) have disclosed that they own
patents covering the VoiceXML Standard and will require RAND Licensing
(See http://www.w3.org/2001/09/voice-disclosures.html).  Assuming that
the other 8 W3C Members charge a similar amount to license the patents
covering their software/technology, and further assuming that none of
the other 52 Members (note that France Telecom acquired Orange) choose
RAND Licensing, prospective licensees can expect to pay licensing fees
of 8 x US$40,000 = US$320,000.  Furthermore, this assumption is a
best-case scenario.  If any of the other Members (like BT, France
Telecom, Hitachi, Intel, Lernout & Hauspie, Lucent, Microsoft, Nortel
Networks, Sun Microsystems, Unisys, Verizon, or Voxeo) decide to jump on
the RAND Licensing bandwagon, then the licensing fees will rise above
US$320,000.  Very few Open-Source Developers can afford to pay
US$320,000, or more, in licensing fees.  Since few Open-Source
Developers can afford to pay US$320,000, or more, in licensing fees, few
Open-Source developers will be able to write software for the VoiceXML
2.0 Standard.  Since few Open-Source developers will be able to write
software for the VoiceXML 2.0 Standard, RAND Licensing will effectively
prevent Open-Source developers from developing software for the VoiceXML
2.0 Standard.

RAND Licensing of Patents that cover W3C standards, including the VBWG's
VoiceXML 2.0 Standard, will destroy Open-Source Software for the Web.
The Patent Policy Working Group has stated that the VBWG is a beta
tester for its new draft Patent Policy (See the second paragraph of
Section 11. Acknowledgements of the Patent Policy Framework at
http://www.w3.org/TR/2001/WD-patent-policy-20010816).  Since the VBWG is
a beta tester for the PPWG's new draft Patent Policy, other Working
Groups will probably follow the VBWG's example in setting their Patent
Policies.  If the VBWG breaks with the W3C's current RF Licensing Policy
and embraces RAND Licensing, then the other Working Groups will probably
embrace RAND Licensing as well.  Since RAND licensing of patents
covering the VoiceXML 2.0 Standard is more expensive than most
Open-Source developers can afford to pay, RAND Licensing of other
Working Group Standards will probably also be more expensive than most
Open-Source developers can afford to pay.  Since RAND Licensing of other
Working Group Standards will probably also be more expensive than most
Open-Source developers can afford to pay, RAND Licensing will
effectively prevent Open-Source developers from writing software for any
W3C Working Group Standards.  Since RAND Licensing will effectively
prevent Open-Source developers from writing software for any W3C Working
Group Standards, RAND Licensing will destroy Open-Source Software for
the Web.

Alternatively, RAND Licensing may remove Open-Source Software from the
Web through optional discount provisions.  For example, Microsoft
recently prohibited the use of "publicly available software" as a
condition of licensing its Mobile Internet Toolkit (See
http://slashdot.org/articles/01/06/21/18102588.shtml).  In the case of
the VoiceXML 2.0 Standard, Microsoft may offer a discount on the
licensing fees for its patents covering the VoiceXML 2.0 Standard
provided that the licensee agrees not to use Open-Source
Software/"publicly available software" (Microsoft, being Microsoft, may
even go further and require licensees who cannot pay the full license
fee to use only Microsoft's proprietary software to develop applications
for the VoiceXML 2.0 Standard).  Since most Open-Source developers
cannot afford to pay the above-mentioned license fees, they would have
to choose between using closed-source/proprietary software or being
denied access to the VoiceXML 2.0 Standard.  Since most persons,
including Open-Source developers, wish to maintain access to W3C
Standards, Microsoft and other patent owners would be coercing these
Open-Source developers into using closed-source/proprietary software to
access the VoiceXML 2.0 Standard.  Since Microsoft and other patent
owners would be coercing these Open-Source developers into using
closed-source/proprietary software to access the VoiceXML 2.0 Standard,
RAND Licensing would remove Open-Source Software from the Web.

4. RAND Licensing will delay or halt the development of W3C Standards

RAND Licensing of patents covering W3C Standards will delay or halt the
development of W3C Standards.  The W3C comprises many Working Groups,
each Working Group comprising many Member Corporations and other patent
owners (See W3C Home Page at http://www.w3.org).  Many Member
corporations, like Microsoft, belong to more than 1 Working Group (See
http://www.w3.org/2001/09/voice-disclosures.html and
http://www.w3.org/XML/Activity).  For example, Microsoft belongs to the
Voice Browser Working Group and the XML Query Working Group ("XQWG").
As a Member of both WGs, Microsoft could refuse to license essential
Patent Claims covering the VoiceXML 2.0 Standard in the VBWG unless the
XQWG agrees to include Microsoft's patents in the XQWG's Standard.  By
refusing to license essential Patent Claims covering the VoiceXML 2.0
Standard in the VBWG unless the XQWG agrees to include Microsoft's
patents in the XQWG's Standard, Microsoft could block development of the
VoiceXML 2.0 Standard in the VBWG and a Standard in the XQWG.
Furthermore, other Member patent owners could make the same threat in
other WGs, thereby blocking other (and perhaps all) WGs from developing
W3C Standards.  Since RAND Licensing allows Members of 1 WG to block
development of W3C Standards in every WG to which they belong, RAND
Licensing of patents covering W3C Standards will delay or halt the
development of W3C Standards.

4. My previous Comments

I also reiterate the reasons that I stated in my comments to the Patent
Policy Working Group (See my Comments to the Patent Policy Working Group
at
http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-patentpolicy-comment/2001Oct/1398.html).

5. Conclusion

For the above reasons, I think the Voice Browser Working Group should
retain the W3C's current Policy of Royalty-Free Licensing for Patents
covering the VoiceXML 2.0 Standard.  Furthermore, I think the VBWG
should prohibit RAND Licensing in any form for the VoiceXML 2.0 Standard
or any other Standard.

Sincerely yours,

Daniel E. Maddux
4100 Greenbriar Street
Number 342
Houston, Texas  77098
Received on Wednesday, 31 October 2001 09:19:21 GMT

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