W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-webpayments@w3.org > February 2013

Re: Mailing List Patent Policy

From: Steven Rowat <steven_rowat@sunshine.net>
Date: Sat, 02 Feb 2013 16:22:21 -0800
Message-ID: <510DADBD.8090605@sunshine.net>
To: public-webpayments@w3.org, Jeffrey Cliff <jeffrey.cliff@gmail.com>
On 2/2/13 1:03 PM, Jeffrey Cliff wrote:
> While I am new to this list, I think this post is dangerously
> misguided.  If the problem is that the patent system is keeping groups
> such as this from acheiving results, then groups like this one need to
> be converted into anti-software patent, or at least
> anti-these-particular-patent ones.

I'm tending to agree with Jeff.

I have an ancient history (circa 1990) of first getting my own patent, 
and after that spending 3 years ghost-writing and illustrating others' 
patents for a registered agent. My experiences with the patents I 
worked on convinced me that the system was controlled by large 
business and was grossly unfair to independent inventors. And I don't 
know that this aspect has gotten any better in the software age; 
perhaps worse.

The day after reading Manu's post about not having discussions in 
recordable mediums about patents relating to this open-source work I 
caught myself having a daydream in which I applied for a patent whose 
claims would allow me the rights to software that automates the 
process employed by the US Patent Office. (And I think the patent 
system is fast approaching such a reductio ad absurdum; perhaps it's 
already there).

OTOH, while as I said I do have a gut "Yeah!" with Jeff's approach, it 
seems also that the patent problem can be filed under the major 
problem that the USA is having with corporate control of democracy at 
the moment. I saw a news clip with Al Gore last night in which he said 
that essentially US democracy had been 'hacked' by large business. I 
don't think he's the first to notice this, but his phrasing catches it 
well for me. So fighting at just the level of the patent arm of the 
system is fighting against a higher power that has a lot of 
ammunition. The Occupy movement is essentially fighting the same 
battle. And to win a war like this, we have to pick fights we can win.

Yet, finally, things are changing in ways we can't predict, with 
social media allowing new ways of organizing ourselves. Perhaps all we 
can do is fall back on some basics: I'd go for 'love your neighbour as 
yourself' and 'the end doesn't justify the means'.

To me that would mean that if I felt strongly that the patent system 
needed complete overhaul (or even abolishment), and this is a mailing 
list developing patent-free, open-source technology, then discussing 
all patents that might be infringed by the technology would seem like 
a thing to be encouraged, rather than avoided.

Needing to pretend publicly to not know about something that you in 
fact need to discuss to do your work seems unhealthy to me; and 
perhaps is unworkable anyway in a supposedly public mailing list.

Steven Rowat

> We /should/ be posting this stuff to email groups such as this - and
> to make as recordable as possible its impacts.  Not because we think
> we can work around it, /not/ because it's unenforcable (in any patent
> case there is a probability that it may be enforced) but because
> hiding from problems [ie in this case, Apple] only allows them to
> perpetuate and grow, and implicitly grants them legitimacy.  The
> businesses that are going to fail to participate due to this issue
> will have an additional datapoint of organized groups [in this case, a
> high profile one] which have been undermined by this problem, and
> hence, more visible evidence that the problem needs solving at its core.
> Jeff Cliff
> On 31 January 2013 14:12, Manu Sporny <msporny@digitalbazaar.com
> <mailto:msporny@digitalbazaar.com>> wrote:
>     On 01/31/2013 02:22 PM, Kumar McMillan wrote:
>      >>
>     http://techcrunch.com/2013/01/31/apple-patents-crowdsourced-peer-to-peer-mobile-banking-that-could-use-itunes-to-provide-cash-on-demand/
>      >> Can you believe this?
>      >
>      > As sad and depressing as this sounds, you shouldn't ever post
>     patent
>      >  announcements to an email list that might be associated with an
>      > emerging protocol (such as what this w3c group aims for). Some info
>      > on why:
>      >
>      >
>     http://www.radwin.org/michael/2003/02/28/why_discussing_patents_over_email_is_bad/
>      >
>      > I've done it before myself :(
>     Having authored several patents by myself and having one of them
>     granted
>     before deciding that I never wanted to do that ever again, I have
>     mixed
>     feelings about this.
>     Our (Digital Bazaar's) official company policy is that we don't e-mail
>     around patents, no matter how ridiculous, they're always discussed
>     in a
>     channel that isn't logged.
>     I also fear that the "head-in-the-sand" approach will hobble this
>     group.
>     We need to know about the patents that exist if we are to work around
>     them for the Royalty-Free requirement of all W3C specs. The risk
>     we run
>     by doing that, however, is that large companies (like Yahoo, Google,
>     Mozilla, etc.) might stay away from this work for that very reason. We
>     don't want to risk that either.
>     So, let's try this as a compromise. If you see a patent that is of
>     interest, it is up to you if you want to notify any of the editors or
>     mailing list participants OVER A NON-RECORDABLE MEDIUM. Just to be
>     clear: Twitter, G+, Skype, IRC, are all recordable mediums. A
>     phone call
>     is best.
>     Folks are free to ignore this advice on the mailing list, but know
>     that
>     by doing so, you're going to push some of the companies that are
>     afraid
>     of these sorts of damages away from participating in this group
>     (and we
>     really, really don't want to do that).
>     -- manu
>     --
>     Manu Sporny (skype: msporny, twitter: manusporny, G+: +Manu Sporny)
>     President/CEO - Digital Bazaar, Inc.
>     blog: Aaron Swartz, PaySwarm, and Academic Journals
>     http://manu.sporny.org/2013/payswarm-journals/
> --
> GENERATION 26: The first time you see this, copy it into your sig on
> any forum and add 1 to the generation
Received on Sunday, 3 February 2013 00:22:41 UTC

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