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

From: Daniel Weitzner <djweitzner@w3.org>
Date: Fri, 14 Mar 2003 17:02:17 -0500
Cc: "Www-Patentpolicy-Comment@W3. "Org <www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org>
To: Adam Warner <lists@consulting.net.nz>
Message-Id: <9EE88AF0-5668-11D7-8CEE-000393CFED62@w3.org>

Adam, thanks for your quick reply. Some answers inline...

On Friday, March 14, 2003, at 04:23  PM, Adam Warner wrote:

> 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"?

I'm not exactly sure what scope you mean to apply to the term 
'specification' so let me see if I can answer your question. The RF 
licensing commitment is for whatever Recommendation is finally produced 
by the working group. So, if this policy had been used by the working 
group (WG) that wrote P3P1.0, the licensing commitments would only 
apply to that Recommendation. If another WG is chartered to work on 
P3P1.1, then a new set of licensing commitments would be sought.

> 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"?

If the extension is something specified as normative in the W3C 
Recommendation then the answer is no. The RF license must cover all 
normative features of the Rec. If the extension is something that an 
implementer decides to do, then there's nothing in the patent policy 
that requires the patent holder to grant a license to those extra 
things that the implementer does. However, it would violate section 
3(7) of the license requirements[1] -- prohibiting " further conditions 
or restrictions on the use of any technology, intellectual property 
rights, or other restrictions on behavior of the licensee" to include a 
restriction against extensions in the RF license that the patent holder 
is required to grant under this policy.

> 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.

I understand your point but to solve the problem you posit would 
require the participants agree to grant a seemingly unbounded licenses 
to any patent they hold regardless of the relationship between the 
original Recommendation (for which the patent-holder must grant an RF 
license) and the extension. Under your proposal, an implementer would 
be entitled to a free licenses for anything that the implementer 
decides is an extension. The PPWG has only been willing to require 
licenses to patent claims that are essential to the Recommendation 
because that enables the patent holders to identify (if they chose) the 
scope of claims which must be made available RF. The experience of the 
PPWG is that some patent holders require that degree of certainty about 
the scope of their obligation to be willing to make an RF commitment at 

> "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

happily it's still not possible to patent algorithms, at least in the 
US. ;-)

> proprietary."

What you've pointed out here is that our proposed policy does not 
eliminate all power that patent holders have to control the direction 
of technology. One camp of commenters believes that requiring a RF 
license at all robs patent holders of too much power. Those in the 
other camp, like you, believe that we haven't done enough. Those in the 
first camp are making a public policy judgment that the only way to 
promote innovation is to allow patent holders total control over 
licensing in standards. You make a policy-based argument on the other 
side that the only (or best) way to promote innovation is to eliminate 
patents from the process.  What we have done is to assure that when a 
piece of technology becomes a Web standards that there are reasonable 
assurances that it will be royalty-free. We've identified what we 
believe to be a practical way forward. Larger questions about the 
innovation-promoting/retarding nature of patents are the province of 



> Regards,
> Adam
Received on Friday, 14 March 2003 17:02:18 UTC

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