Patent Policy

To quote from the introduction to the proposed changes: 
# The sine qua non of the Web revolution is the open
# standards environment on which the Web is built and
# continues to grow. The Web's open technical standards
# have developed through the open, collaborative process
# created by the World Wide Web Consortium.
One could go on to note how attempts to create proprietary
standards have generally produced much less useful results,
and how the large players in the industry have used patents
to bully anyone the perceive as a threat.

I am gravely disappointed by proposed extension of 
patent policy. As a U.S. citizen, I have seen patents
go from a mechanism protecting inventors, to a tool
used by large interests as a bargaining point. Patents
no longer defend the small innovator (because we cannot
afford the lawyers to defend them), and many flawed patents
continue to stand, because of the legal costs of fighting

To further this situation by allowing it into the W3C
standards process is a disgrace and a terrible disservice
to the internet community.  The successes of the internet
and web have grown out of an open environment, where all
aspects of the standard was open to everyone. Much of the
software that drives the internet today was written as a
completely free reference implementation of an open
standard (often written at the authors own cost). To limit
this by charging any kind of royalty is goes against the
principles that have got us where we are today. 

One this general background, I'd like to raise some specific
1) What constitutes a 'fair' license fee ?
For a large corporation, $10,000 could be a very cheap patent
license. For a private citizen, or university researcher, it could
be an insurmountable barrier. 
2) If there is a royalty on distribution (e.g. $1.00 per copy
distributed) how could this be applied to free software and
still be 'fair' ? The strength of free reference implmentations
lies in being able to make it available to anyone without charge
or undue complication. Even if the fee itself is not burdensome
to users, the collection mechanism could make this distrubtion
method unworkable.
3) What stops the patent owners from using their patent to
coerce independent developers or competitors. For example
a RAND license may require that the patented item is used
only to implement the standard. The patent hold might argue
that a particular implementation uses it for something else,
and BY THE MERE THREAT OF LEGAL ACTION, even if it does not
have a strong legal basis, prevent the implementor
from distributing their implementation. 

As a widely respected standards body, the W3C has an
opportunity to mitigate some of the problems caused by the
current disgraceful state of the the USPTO (and those
around the world who are starting to follow it's example).
The W3C should stand up to the pressure exerted by it's
industry members, by making it a policy that non-RF
standards are not accepted under any circumstances, and
that patented standards are strongly discouraged. If a member
wishes for a technolgy which they developed to become a world
wide standard, then they should be willing to make it 
unconditionally available to the world. The open
intellectual environment that spawned the internet and web
has achieved wonderful things. If we maintain it, we will
achieve many more. If we do not, the W3C standards will
become another battle ground for corporate intellectual
property lawyers, to the detriment of users and the
industry at large.

Reed Mideke
Email:               rfm(at) or rfm(at)
Home page:                   
=========>Free Dmitry!<============

Received on Sunday, 30 September 2001 16:51:24 UTC