Re: Patents and public

   First of all, I think I speak for everyone when a say the following:
Chris, please turn on the feature of your email application that inserts
 a CR/LF every X number of characters. The following quotes were a
single line in my email application when I hit the reply button, and I
had to manually wrap the whole thing. Also, I've heard that narrower
columns tend to be easier to read.

Chris Wilson wrote:
> I absolutely do want to respond to public feedback, and in
> the end for the charter championed that the WG must work in
> the public, unlike any other WG I've been on - despite my
> stated misgivings (and I'm just waiting for the press to
> pick up one of these threads).  Responding to public feedback
> is not the same thing as letting anyone from the outside
> contribute innovative, potentially patentable ideas into the
> spec without signing up for the patent policy.  I would never
> suggest that we ignore public feedback, nor ignore great
> outside ideas - I have consistently argued inside Microsoft
> that a significant value of open standards is the great ideas
> other people have - just that we be conscientious about IP
> provenance.

   While I respect your need for security against lawsuits (which I
think is something everyone in the development community can relate to),
I think you have a somewhat distorted view of what the "public" is.

   The process required to get on this mailing list was significantly
non-trivial, and I by no means went into that process assured that I
would be able to become an invited expert and post in this mailing list.
I almost decided not to join. It had nothing to do with signing a patent
agreement (which I would have done in a second), but rather the
complexity of the process and the requirement for approval by at least
two W3C representatives.

   Had I chosen not to join the HTML WG, I would have been forced to
funnel my ideas through people who frequent both this mailing list and
the WHATWG mailing list. Thus I strongly suspect that the W3C has
created a scenario where content will be smuggled into the working group
without via working group members because people are intimidated by the
process. This may make it nigh impossible to determine if an idea is
patent-safe, because the people who volunteer the ideas are very likely
not the original source.

   In short, I don't think patent injection is detectable or preventable
by this working group, at least not at the moment. If we reject material
like the WHATWG specifications, supporters of those features will just
sneak them in through the back door. In fact, because WHATWG members and
contributors are the ones most familiar with those features and would
loath to suppress them, it's unlikely that the HTML WG would have people
who would have both sufficiently familiar with WHATWG materials to
recognize them and the will to exclude them. Same goes double for a
random feature from an unknown third party that hasn't documented said
features on the Web.

   The best first step would be to allow anyone to post on the HTML WG
mailing list by just having them visit a web page that would be nothing
more than a mailing list sign-up with an additional check box that says
"I agree to the W3C Patent Policy". This would allow pretty much anyone
to join in on the discussion while still offering legal protection
against patent lawsuits.

   Another good step would be for several companies participating int
this working group to form a patent review task force that would provide
the legal resources necessary to perform full patent reviews on
submitted materials and ideas, such as the mandated Ogg Theora codex
issue. We could tentatively put feature in the spec but mark them as
pending patent review, then indicate if they pass the review at a later
date. I'm certain that the combined patent resources of Apple, the
Mozilla Foundation, Opera Software, Google and Microsoft would be

Received on Saturday, 14 April 2007 14:03:22 UTC