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We must fork the SVG standard (was: SVGA 1.0 uses RAND -> DO NOT ! implement it, DO NOT ! use it)

From: Daniel Phillips <phillips@bonn-fries.net>
Date: Wed, 3 Oct 2001 19:19:19 +0200
To: sup sup <mail101ca@yahoo.com>, www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-Id: <20011003171921Z16146-17200+331@humbolt.nl.linux.org>
On October 3, 2001 10:34 am, sup sup wrote:
> http://www.w3.org/2001/07/SVG10-IPR-statements.html
> Apple, IBM, Eastman Kodak, Quark  use RAND license in
> SVG 1.0 recommendation. Ignore SVGA until it's RAND
> clear.
> OK ?

I wish I could say that SVG is only a recommendation at this point, but 
unfortunately, "recommendation" is the W3C word for "standard", just as RFC 
is the IETF's word for standard.

SVG became a standard, i.e, "recommendation" in W3G terminology, just under 
one month ago:

    "W3C Recommendation 04 September 2001"

The public review period, if there ever was one, went by quietly:


    "On 19 July, 2001, this document enters a Proposed Recommendation review  
    period. From that date until 16 August, 2001, W3C Advisory Committee  
    representatives are encouraged to review this specification and return
    comments to w3t-svg@w3.org, which is visible to the W3C Team only.

Interestingly, the timing of the SVG 1.0 release seems to be closely 
correlated with the proposed change to W3C's patent policy currently being 

Returning to the SVG 1.0 recommendation document:

    "W3C Recommendation 04 September 2001"

we see that the word "patent" occurs once in it, with a link to this document:


Now lets just focus on Apple, one of the companies listed as having disclosed 
patent claims and license commitments connected with the SVG standard.

In the summary section we learn that:

    Apple informed the SVG 1.0 Working Group very early in the SVG 1.0 
    process of the patent they listed in their license statement. The SVG 
    Working Group made a concerted effort to produce a specification that 
    does not require implementors to infringe the patent.

and later, this is elaborated:

    Apple IPR Statement: 11 July 2001
    Apple agrees to provide a RAND License (defined below) for
    all Essential Claims (defined below) in U.S. Patent 5,379,129
    to implementors of the SVG 1.0 Specification who grant a
    reciprocal RAND License to Essential Claims for the SVG 1.0
    Specification. Apple grants no license, either express or
    implied, to any other patent, patent application, trade
    secret or other intellectual property right. Apple expressly
    reserves all rights in its intellectual property.
There follows a detailed, legalistic statement by Apple which, among other 
things, defines the terms "Essential Claims" and "RAND License".  As part of 
the latter definition we see that, according to Apple:

   A RAND License shall mean a license that:
   (i) shall be available to all implementers worldwide,
       whether or not W3C Members;
Unfortunately, the document that defines Apple's licensing terms is not 
available to the public:

If you or I try to go there we will get a "Sorry, Unauthorized" message and 
learn that we must be an member of the W3C to view the page, and that 
individuals may not become members of the W3C.

So, the SVG standard was formalized and includes RAND licencing arrangements 
even though RAND licencing was not an official W3C policy at the time.  
Perhaps worse, the licensing arrangements have not been disclosed to the 

In my opinion we have a smoking gun.  We can see that Apple has already 
abused the concept of RAND licensing, even before the policy was formally 
adopted, and that the W3C's now-formalized SVG standard ("recommendation") 
has already been tainted by that.  I will not try to be any more specific 
about this, I've presented enough of the bits and pieces of the puzzle so 
that you can form your own opinion.

Adobe was quick to act:

    "2001-Sep-27  Adobe released SVG Viewer 3.0 beta 3. Bugs should be 
    reported as the beta period is expected to be short."

The question that naturally arises is: even though Adobe was nowhwere 
mentioned in the SVG documents, does Adobe somehow stand to benefit from 
Apple's undisclosed RAND licensing terms?  There is no smoking gun here, but 
there is certainly smoke.

It is clear what we must do.  We must fork the SVG standard; in its current 
form it is unacceptable.

Received on Wednesday, 3 October 2001 13:19:28 UTC

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