Re: SVG & XPointer - When I write SVG code can I be sued?

On Fri, Jan 19 2001 wrote:

> Second, my conclusions on this (taking into account off-list email) are
> 1. That the intention of W3C and Sun was to say, "Guys don't worry! Nobody is 
> going to sue you for using XPointer" (and by extension SVG).
> 2. The way that good intention was expressed was verbose, opaque, convoluted 
> and confusing
> 3. The XPointer WD and the Sun "Terms and Conditions" should be redrafted to 
> express conclusion 1. much more clearly.

Thanks for the conclusions and the time you've spent.  I agree with 1
-- I'd even say it makes the patent pretty harmless (as far as I can
tell).  As for 2, I'd say that the statement was relatively readable
given that it was in legalese.  As for 3, what to do about it
... while trying not to get overly excited and hop on any bandwagon,
and despite previously not having misgivings about the statement, (and
speaking for myself and not any company ... oh yeah, and not being a
lawyer ;) I'm becoming more and more convinced it's a wart on this and
any standard, should be removed from XPointer, and its equivalent
should not appear in any standard document.  This should be standard
W3C practice for any recommendation -- in fact, hasn't it always
implicitly been?.

Perhaps the solution is for W3C itself to hold such patents as a
trusted third party, if indeed someone has to have a patent.
Certainly W3C as a whole needs to address this issue, and perhaps
XPointer could be delayed until some kind of policy is made that makes
a statement like Sun's, and a link to it from the spec, unnecessary.

Sun's position is similar to that of gun toters in the US, or of nuke
toters in the cold war: "We have a frightful weapon, but we're really
nice people, we only have it because with live in a cruel unpoliced
world in which bad guys have the same kind of weapon, and we have this
weapon to protect everybody from the bad guys."  Sun's concerns are no
different than any company involved in making a standard -- the fact
that a company's involved in a standard means something they develop
relates to it.  If Sun's position is acceptable, then every standard
released should have some gun-slinging cowboy attached to it.  Or
worse, each standard could have different companies as white knights
over portions of the standard they feel obliged to protect.  And each
time a standard comes out with one or more vigilante champions behind
it, the more other companies are going to feel compelled, or
threatened, to do the same, and the more the vigilante-ism is going to

Now matter how well Sun means, there's still a loaded gun in the room.
Having a patent from a private company on a part of a standard is
always going to be just that, no matter how much protective legalese
padding is wrapped around it.  The patent will still affect the
atmosphere of the standard's adoption and implementation, and the fact
that it's necessary for a pointer to a patent disclaimer to be in the
spec itself is always going to be a warning sign for readers, no
matter how well-worded the disclaimer is.


Lloyd Rutledge  vox: +31 20 592 41 27       fax: +31 20 592 41 99
CWI             net:  Web:
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Received on Friday, 26 January 2001 09:20:03 UTC