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RE: [xml-dev] standards vs. the public
- From: "Bullard, Claude L (Len)" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- To: "Steven R. Newcomb" <email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Date: Tue, 09 Oct 2001 09:04:16 -0500
The position makes sense. Still look at the probable
1. Technology for which no patents exist is likely
to be research. There is typically a ten year span
from lab to shelf for this. No standard is needed.
A specification for such that speeds that up or
forces convergence can be a useful artifact.
2. Technology for which patents exist is likely
to be past research and into productization. For
this, some investment of resources has occurred.
The holder of this intellectual property has to
decide how to recoup this or donate it in the
public interest which may or may not coincide
with the interests of the holder. This is
an individual decision.
3. Should the W3C decide to work on an item
1 technology, the problems are not patents.
Should the W3C decide to work on an item 2
technology, it cannot force a member to surrender
its intellectual property rights. If the holder
does not relinquish rights or offer an RF agreement, it
can only work around a patent or declare such
technology out of bounds for W3C specifications.
It is possible that the workaround may result in
a lower quality technology that has to take its
chance in the marketplace, or it may result in a
superior technology. Either result is reasonable.
4. Market will greatly influenced by the research
of these companies and those that want to use that
influence will patent as fast as they can to maintain
control of the decision. Since it is possible that
many patentable items will be in the higher levels
of technology, patents and proprietary applications
will abound. This is also a reasonable outcome.
The issue which undergirds many of the
arguments is cost. Tim Bray mentions the "toll"
to get on the Internet. Others talk about open
source as if it were a free goldmine for those
that can exploit the potential (eg, RedHat).
For the underfunded developer, open source and
royalty free standards and specifications are a
means to become BigCos (again, RedHat). However,
the cost of creating these is still real and
in some cases, significant. One has to ask
if the public interest is a compelling enough
argument to require a company that finances its
research and receives patents to support the
RedHats of the world.
The other issue is complexity. Complexity is
an effective barrier to entry into a market.
We are all aware of the issues with SGML/HyTime
that drove some developers to simpler alternatives.
Some years later, these developers discover that
the simpler solutions lead to the same complexity
over time. Without the enormous publicity and
developer buyin for the simpler but underpowered
specifications, emergence is slowed but favors
the funded developer. So unless the W3C can
focus on simpler specifications, the underfunded
developer is still at a disadvantage regardless
of the RF status. The advantage of RF to them
is to receive gratis, the work of the funded
companies or the large and sometimes difficult
to market open source work. Pursuit of RF
for any standard or specifcation once again
leads to the holder making the hard business
decision to donate a resource and in some
cases, enable its competitor.
While it is good to do "the right thing" it
will come back again and again to what Simone
asks: "good for whom?". By insisting on
RF, we are limiting the options of the W3C
and that can have reasonable outcomes. It
will not of necessity lead the web to its
full potential unless that potential admits
the very real possibility that the profitable
parts of that potential are proprietary and
require licensing or outright purchase. In
this case, the underfunded developer may
have roughly the same dilemma, but be cut
out of the option to compete with the same
technology that a smaller royalty would
The public, that is the Internet users,
will have the products in either case and
the public good will have been served.
From: Steven R. Newcomb [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, October 08, 2001 5:47 PM
Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Subject: [xml-dev] standards vs. the public
The proposed patent policy demands discussion of the
basis on which the policy is being proposed and
defended. How is the public interest served (or, as
the case may be, not served) by this policy?
"The only reason you should work on information
interchange standards is because you don't already
control the market."
I think this rather crass statement is appropriate,
given the current situation. It grieves me. I wish it
were not so.
It would be much better for everyone, including the
standards-makers, if they would all use their
considerable skills to serve the public. A "standard"
should be carefully designed to enjoy the wholehearted
support of an enlightened public.