Regarding the patent policy recommendation.

To the working party,

There are several parts of the document
which gives me some cause for concern. Whilst I recognise that patents
are not going to go away and in some sense may be inevitable purely
by the w3c and other such organisations accepting it as such.

Background (Informative)

The patenting of software is poisoning the software industry, it is
only used significantly in the US, not in Europe or many other parts of
world. Cosidering this draft proposal in the wider context, it seem to
me that by accepting this into the w3c would strengthen the hand of
to the EU parliment for software patents. This would indicate that the w3c
being used as a pawn in a wider game, it should not play or allowed itself
to be manipulated in such a way.

History has shown that not patenting things has had a greater
benifit for the wider community than patenting. A few examples
spring to mind, the Davey lamp saved many thousand lives in mines
in the 19th century.

In the world of computing The speadsheet has become a highly ubiquitous
tool in the work place, as an after thought, so has the web, DNS,
ftp, telnet, LaTeX....

Patenting is a method of attempting to control a market, many companies
Microsoft and Sun have shown that being flexible and rapidly adapting to
customers needs plays a far bigger part in their success than patents ever
can. Patents unfortunately artificially add stock market value to a
company and are
unlikely to disappear.

Patents and copyright were originally designed to protect the individual
from unscruplous companies and individuals, and to help provide for their
families financial well being after the inventor or writer passed away,
are now used as tools for monopolising in far too many instances.

There are two reasonable uses of patents.

1) For a lone inventor inventing.

2) For a large company preventing another company from stealing an
idea and making a similar product without bearing the cost of development.

Software patents are unnecessary and omewhat akin to patenting a chess
there are more effective ways for a company to protect their intellectual
property other than patents. There are already many different ways of
generating a revenue stream than patents on the web.

There are some points concerning the document which I wish to bring up.

Low-Level standards.

        The document does not describe adequately what 'Low-Level'
        standards are, this is a fatal flaw and can lead to abuse.

        Companies can and will lobby governments to extent the period
        of patent protection (this is in the companies best interest,
        though not necessarily in the best interest of a wider community).
        This working draft, should it be accepted would become far more
        restrictive under a change in legal definitions of what is and
        what is not patentable.

The RAND license.

        Does this mean that everyone should pay the same price to use
        the patented technology? If all patent issues are removed from the
        standard then using the patent becomes a non issue.

My recomendations are

1)      First define what is low level technology for which even
        patents is a non issue.

2)      Should there be software patenting at all?

        A standard may have a non software component which is patented(?!)
        all software should be essentially patent free.

3) A strict disclosure policy of patents

        3.1) All members are obliged to list all patents which are
        to w3 consortium sponsored standards. Provided with the patent
        declaration should be a statement of the scope under which they
        intend to enforce the patent, then any standard should seek to
        avoid the patent issues, so that all standards are patent free.
        The company with the patent may be able to implement the standard
        using its patented technology, which might result in a performance
        enhancement (in the US). The patent free standard would then come
with a        w3c recommend tag. The perforamnce enhanced version could be
        as w3c standard compliant.

        3.2) All w3 members who do not disclose all relevant patents agree
that         they become RF by default. This will protect the w3c from
being caught
        out by a company using the w3c for its own profit and hijacking

        3.3) All declared patents must be enforced immediately, the
process of
        letting an industry grow and then be harvested by a patent holder
        only produce very negative feedback on the w3 consortium as a
        and should be prevented from ever happening. Even if it is simply
        w3c standard compliant.
        3.4) A call for patents. Should a working party be set up
        a definition for a standard that another member of the w3c or
        companies/universities has an existing patent on, the working
        should be informend as soon as possible and also make
        themselves. Else the patent by default becomes RF if it involves a
        member of the w3c.
4) RAND Reasonable? and non-discriminatory?
        This needs a major rethink, if there are no patents in software
        then there is no need for a RAND license.
        The current RAND licensing mentioned allows the hijacking of a
        standard, this is totally unacceptable and would inevitably
        result in a new body being set up, competing and replicating
        much of the good work that has already been done by the w3c
5) Open this for public debate for a longer period of time.
        This is an important issue and the ideas presented by the working
        party are too complex to be dealt with in a month. If there is
        to be a change to the w3c it should not be done hastily, by cloak
        dagger means, that will only serve to diminish the reputation of
6) Generate a couple of case studies about the software patents issue.
        If the signaturies of the document are convinced that allowing
        software patents into the structure of the w3c is a good thing.
        Presenting a few case studies explaining how it is envisaged it
        would work should provide some concrete starting points for
        it could also more precisely define the scope and place for
        software patents within their view point of the issue.

These are my own personal views and they categorically do not reflect the
views of my company Serco or CERN.

Received on Sunday, 30 September 2001 20:04:49 UTC