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Re: A mistake to ignore the cost of patents

From: Wendy Seltzer <wseltzer@w3.org>
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2014 05:08:20 -0400
Message-ID: <53A7EE84.4090003@w3.org>
To: Dave Burstein <daveb@dslprime.com>, Karl Dubost <karl@la-grange.net>
CC: Catherine Roy <ecrire@catherine-roy.net>, "public-restrictedmedia@w3.org" <public-restrictedmedia@w3.org>
Hi Dave and all,

W3C has a royalty-free patent policy because we believe the core
standards of the Web should be available to implement unencumbered by
patents. If someone discloses a patent essential to technology in a
recommendation-track spec, we convene a Patent Advisory Group to work to
resolve the conflict.
See http://www.w3.org/Consortium/Patent-Policy-20040205/
That's how we can and do discuss patents.

The US patent system sets up disincentives for people to learn about
specific patents, however, in the rule of treble damages for "willful
infringement," and thus many companies ask their engineers not to
participate in such discussions. Pricing discussions among competitors
raise competition concerns. Since W3C has processes set up to handle
patent questions, and to enable competitors to discuss technical
interoperability, we prefer to keep specific patent discussions off the
general W3C mailing lists.


On 06/21/2014 08:43 PM, Dave Burstein wrote:
> Karl and others
> Respectfully
>     Many of us have come to believe that the current patent system is
> broken. I see patent costs, especially as created by the U.S. "strong
> patent" system a major obstacle to inexpensive equipment. There are numbers
> floating around that patents could add 30-100% to the cost of a low end
> smartphone; one of the reasons I don't know whether that's true is that
> most organizations involved avoid this important topic.
>    In addition, in my main gig reporting about broadband, again and again
> I've seen high patent royalties seriously prevent or decimate competition.
> So these are real issues.
>    I'm not personally opposed to patent royalties, so long as they are
> reasonable. The ITU, IEEE, ATIS and the other organizations I know in this
> field all have a policy requiring "reasonable and non-discriminatory"
> patent charges. But I've seen that become meaningless as all the
> organizations refuse to do anything to enforce that rule. We've also all
> seen obvious ideas become entangled in the patent system.
>    In one case I know the details in full, VDSL chips cost 30-70% more than
> they likely would if the relevant standards group hadn't refused to even
> discuss an offer from those supporting one of the proposed standards (QAM)
> to make all patents they owned royalty free.
>    I believe the time has come to make discussion of the individual patents
> and especially their royalty levels an important part of the debate.
>    If those of us who believe royalties should be "reasonable" and only
> accrue to "non-obvious" inventions spoke up more, maybe things would be
> improved.
>    Why am I wrong?
> On Fri, Jun 20, 2014 at 5:46 PM, Karl Dubost <karl@la-grange.net> wrote:
>> Hi Catherine,
>> (no drama, just a note)
>> In general, we do not discuss specific patents on W3C mailing-lists,
>> except if it has been brought up in the case of a Patent Advisory Group. It
>> has possible consequences. Refrain to send and/or discuss about this one or
>> any others in the future.
>> --
>> Karl Dubost 🐄
>> http://www.la-grange.net/karl/

Wendy Seltzer -- wseltzer@w3.org +1.617.715.4883 (office)
Policy Counsel and Domain Lead, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
http://wendy.seltzer.org/        +1.617.863.0613 (mobile)
Received on Monday, 23 June 2014 09:08:40 UTC

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