Saturday, September 29, 2001

Patents and the W3C Software patents are the only way to shut down open-source projects and innovation. They're also legal reality in the US. The W3C recognized the important role they may play in the future and has put together a framework (RAND) that requires patent holders to 1) announce they have patents when they do and 2) license patents equally to everyone. Some people critisize the new policy arguing the W3C should not recommend standards that have underlying patents. They also point out that the current rules encourage patent-non disclosure.

Until patent laws become less completely stupid, the above may be the best solution. Since patents have to be licensed equally to all organizations, no one company can try to shut out another through patents. So if Microsoft tried to use its patents to stop development in one area, it would have to hurt Red Hat, Sun, IBM, etc. equally. Under RAND, it seems, cross-licensing under discriminatory terms is no longer OK. The software patent system just sounds like a big mexican standoff to me.

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