RAND licenseing comment

An Open Letter to the W3C Regarding the Proposed RAND Patent Policy:

I am the author of CustomDNS and the xmlrpc-c stack, both of which are
licensed under MIT-style licenses.  To the best of my knowledge, I have
several thousand users, several of whom are commercial software developers
in emerging Internet markets.

I respectfully suggest that the W3C reject the RAND licensing proposal for
three reasons: it encourages independent developers to distrust the W3C, it
locks the free software community out of implementing any W3C standards,
and it rewards RamBus-style deception by member companies.

RAND licensing encourages smaller, independent developers to distrust--and
avoid--W3C standards.  Smaller developers cannot risk unforeseen and
undisclosed patents, even if the licensing terms are generous.  Many of
these developers were burnt by the Fraunhoffer patents on MP3, and they
remember the risks involved with patented standards.  But these developers
are also vital to the health of any platform, and the W3C should make an
effort work with them.

The RAND policy would also prevent open source software developers from
implementing many W3C standards, and thereby hurt commercial developers who
rely on open source.  Many of the leading implementations of XML, PNG,
InfoZip and JPEG were first distributed as open source libraries, and were
later used in countless commercial and in-house software packages.  Had XML
been subject to RAND patents, for example, I could never have implemented
the xmlrpc-c stack, and my commercial users would have chosen technologies
other than XML.

Most importantly, the proposed policy unfairly rewards deception and
negligence.  Failure by a company's W3C representative to respond to a
patent disclosure claim would "commit their Member company to license all
Essential Claims needed to implement W3C recommendations on at least RAND
terms."  Such a weak incentive to disclose nearly guarantees that some
member companies will conceal patents, steer the standards process toward
patented technologies, and spring their patents on the Internet community
at a later date.  Witness the debacle with the RamBus patents, and how much
trouble it has caused for the RAM industry.

The RAND policy would drastically reduce the adoption of W3C technologies
by scaring away independent commercial and open source developers.  And the
proposed disclosure policy would mean that all W3C standards are
potentially patented.  Therefore, I urge the W3C to reject the RAND
proposal as written.

Eric Kidd


Received on Sunday, 30 September 2001 11:14:31 UTC