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Re: PPWG reply on issue L3 -- GPL & W3C RF license requirements

From: Adam Warner <lists@consulting.net.nz>
Date: 15 Mar 2003 10:23:59 +1300
To: Daniel Weitzner <djweitzner@w3.org>
Cc: "Www-Patentpolicy-Comment@W3. " Org <www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org>
Message-Id: <1047677038.1085.72.camel@work.consulting.net.nz>

On Sat, 2003-03-15 at 08:17, Daniel Weitzner wrote:
> A number of commenters have raised questions about whether there is a 
> conflict between the GPL and the royalty-free licensing requirements 
> set in the W3C RF Patent Policy. In particular, commenters expressed 
> concern that the W3C Patent Policy contains a 'field of use' 
> restriction that would bar GPL implementations. The most immediate 
> response to this concern is to note that there are no field-of-use 
> restrictions whatsoever required by the policy. Hence, the fact that a 
> Recommendation issues under the policy does not impose any field-of-use 
> restrictions on an implementer. The Patent Policy WG has discussed this 
> matter and reached the following conclusion:
> The policy addresses the patent licensing requirements for 
> implementations of W3C Recommendations, while remaining neutral as to 
> what patent owners may do as to licensing for other purposes.The policy 
> neither creates a presumption that any WG member will offer any license 
> to its patents for any other use, nor that the Member will impose any 
> conditions on implementers to limit their implementations to the Rec.
> We hope that this addresses the concerns of the commenters. If not, 
> please reply back by 18 March 2003.

I hope you will address the issues I raised in my last comment. I'll
provide some focusing questions:

1. Can members restrict their patent grants to the current revision of a
specification? That is, can any future revision of a specification be
"for other purposes"?

2. Can members use this same neutral policy to prohibit the
implementation of any extensions to a recommendation? That is can an
extension to a recommendation be "for other purposes"?

For technological progress to occur extensions to standards will and
must develop over time. If your answer is yes to at least question 2
then some of your constituency may have no means to contribute to
further technological progress. Extensions could make an implementation
non-conforming and outside licence grants. And if one holds off
implementing any extensions (and engaging in innovation) one eventually
becomes irrelevant.

Allowing members to do whatever they want is also a neutral policy. This
claim of neutrality is whitewashed of meaning. Rather than being neutral
the W3C should be actively pursing policies that will enhance general
technological progress rather than allow members to lock in
technological stagnation for everyone but those with the means to
licence their technology on other terms.

>From my last call comment:

"I strongly suggest you clarify that the implementation of any extension
(third party or otherwise) to a W3C recommendation is still covered by
the licence grant.

"If it is not then what you may have done is deleted the Core/Extension
process and replaced it with an informal one that could force future
non-proprietary technology stagnation. We may be worse off than if you
had kept out of the whole process. So long as companies have an
incentive to get developers and users to adopt their technologies they
will continue to consider granting royalty-free licenses to implement
their specifications. If the W3C assists them in obtaining widespread
adoption then the incentive to provide future royalty-free licenses is
diminished. As extensions inevitably develop that also use the same
patented algorithms then future implementations may have to become

Received on Friday, 14 March 2003 16:27:10 UTC

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