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RE: Cutting special deals for open source developers -- nowa

  • From: "Bullard, Claude L (Len)" <clbullar@i...>
  • To: Dave Winer <dave@u...>,David RR Webber - XMLGlobal <Gnosis_@c...>, w3c-ac-forum@w...
  • Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001 08:57:32 -0500

nowa special
Good question.  Why was XML created as a subset and attempt to 
improve ISO SGML?  Why was it done under the aegis of a commercial 
consortium instead of SGML Open or even ISO, or at IBM where 
much of the original development was done and a fat patent 
could have been granted?  Who gets to say, "This group 
governs but this other group is too old and too slow to 
manage its own works?"  Spy vs Spy.  

Who decides?  No one.  They just duke it out or they 
cooperate.  What about the "lone hacker", the Apple myth?

It is romantic but wrong.  Patent holders often have to fight for 
their lives when large consortia and companies squeeze 
the profits out of them by denying them access to various 
other sources of revenue.   Others such as the MPEG group 
band together and have patent pools.  They are wildly 
successful.  What if the W3C instituted a policy that 
patents on work done at the W3C would be held in common 
and profits divided among holding members?  Who would 
benefit?  Who would get hurt?

As far as I can tell, the argument against encumbered specifications 
is that the W3C has little power against its own members to control 
their use of the patenting process, so their most viable alternative 
is to have a policy that refuses any patented technology or work that 
might involve it.  As I said before, it will be a moral position 
and it will limit their scope.  The patenting process will keep 
on increasing in volume until the laws are changed.   But to what? 
Without the patent process, what constraints are there on the 
W3C or other organizations to rob the poor and give to the rich 
who by dint of membership have all the early access to the information 
and by dint of size, can crush any other individual or organization 
working in the field but unwilling or unable to join the W3C?

This isn't a simple problem.  It demands clear policy and something 
will have to give for that to be formulated.  I doubt anyone will 
be completely happy with the results.

len

-----Original Message-----
From: Dave Winer [mailto:dave@u...]

As I was reading your story, I was thinking -- why are they developing in a
market that someone else dominates? Why don't they spend their time looking
for something truly new to do, instead of refining someone else's product?

And what of the company with 80 percent market share? Should they be
vulnerable to a handful of features? What about the rest of the fanatical
chess player's product -- is it competitive with the dominant company's
product? That's doubtful if they were able to catch up with only three
months of development. If the users of the BigCo's product want the features
should they have to use the other company's product to get them?

Also, the BigCo appears to have competion in your case study. (The other 20
percent.) Why shouldn't the smart designer do a deal with them to go after
the dominant market leader? Should it require persistence to defeat a market
leader or just an idea and a lawyer? I believe it should require
persistence, and that there's always a zig possible to the leaders' zag --
something clever you can do that they can't do, precisely because they lead.

BTW, this is a common argument -- and people buy into it because it's so
romantic -- the lone inventor who succeeds because patents protected him.
But that is just a romantic story, in the real world the patent holders are
often the BigCo's who act to keep the entrepreneur out of the market
altogether.

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