I am concerned about allowing RAND licensing

I read with great dismay the Working Draft of the W3C Patent Policy Framework.
I have now been working with the WWW since around mid-1993, at first teaching
people about what it was, then about how to build web sites, etc. It has been
amazing to see the evolution of the Web into something beyond even our wildest
dreams in those early days.  

When I look at why it succeeded as it has, it seems pretty clear to me that the
success is in large part due to *open* and *royalty-free* standards. HTML, CSS,
XML, XSL... all of these standards have allowed even greater expansion of the 
Web.  Because the standards have been free and open, people have used them.
The W3C has been seen as the champion of those royalty-free standards, and because
of that, the Web has succeeded.

Why then, do you wish to kill it?

When I learned tonight that Kodak has essentially reserved the right to later
institute a (possibly fee-based) RAND licence on the Scalable Vector Graphics
(SVG) standard[1], my immediate reaction is that I do NOT want to use it.  I have
been planning to start using XSLT to move some graphics over into SVG from GIF,
due to the licensing issues with that format.  This has been on my project plan
for some time.  Now it does not seem like a good idea.  If a claim is later found,
then SVG will wind up in the same mess as GIF... and all of us will be left looking
for a new and royalty-free format. If this were to happen, I would be that we 
will look for a format that is NOT from the W3C, as we were burned by the SVG spec.
And so the W3C will become less relevant and other standards bodies will emerge.

I am also gravely concerned about the effect this will have on the work of
the Working Groups.  Will companies be willing to share as much info if there
is the possibility that a less-ethical company is not disclosing some patent
information?  ("Oops... by the way... that new standard you all came up with? It
infringes on our patent... you all owe us millions of dollars. Pay up now.")
Will people be as willing to share?  Or will this send a chill through all of

I urge you to reconsider this working draft and look to continue to be a champion
for royalty-free licenses. If you do not, I seriously question how successful
future standards will be.

Dan York
Ottawa, ON Canada

[1]  http://www.openphd.net/W3C_Patent_Policy/#AEN98

Received on Sunday, 30 September 2001 19:16:36 UTC