[whatwg] Patent Policy and Process

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Mon Jun 14 03:28:05 PDT 2004

On Mon, 14 Jun 2004, Jim Ley wrote:
>> > Is there any time limit for such response?
>> No, but it is pretty obvious when someone is being ignored.
> It doesn't actually matter though if someone is being ignored right?

I don't really understand what you are asking for.

> I'd've been happy with an ATOM like wiki etc. approach which knocked
> something together to then take to the IETF, but you choose a Working
> Group, with a Charter, and clear IP claims of Opera on the resulting
> specification.

I'll see if I can get the copyright reassigned to the public domain.

> Opera are a responsible company, their vision is to not get involved in
> proprietary standards, which is why I feel the WHATWG is a strange
> approach for them to get involved in, it is proprietary standard, much
> more proprietrary than the W3 (since anyone can become a member, it's
> not even that expensive)

WHATWG "members" are equivalent to the W3C "team". WHATWG "contributors"
are equivalent to the W3C "members". When the "contributors" don't agree
on something, then the "members" make a decision.

I really don't understand what you mean by "proprietary" in this context.
The work here is not "owned by a private individual or corporation under a
trademark or patent", nor is it "a product not conforming to open-systems
standards, and thus one that puts the customer at the mercy of a vendor
who can inflate service and upgrade charges after the initial sale has
locked the customer in".

> > > Please put WHATWG on the level of a legal entity
> >
> > Highly unlikely to happen. The whole point of this work is to prepare a
> > proposal for a real standards organisation, not to become one.
> Right, great, what's the roadmap

Right now:

   1. Get Web Forms 2.0 into a state where proof of concept
      implementations could be made.
   2. Write a test suite.
   3. Submit the work to a standards organisation.
   4. Start work on Web Apps 1.0.

Although steps 4 and 2 are likely to overlap.

> which standards organisation

As I understand it, W3C process states that members are not allowed to
announce that they are going to submit work to the W3C. So it could be
W3C, IETF, ECMA, ISO, whichever. One of the members of WHATWG reports that
JavaScript went through ECMA quite well. ATOM seems to be going through
IETF. PNG went through W3C.

> I know ECMA doesn't take proposals from 7 random blokes, does the ISO?

Mozilla and Opera would be quite happy to submit the work on behalf of
WHATWG members, I imagine. It's only WHATWG that doesn't recognise
companies, not the members themselves.

> if not which other standards organisation would you take it, are you
> sure that it's worth delivering finely detailed specs simply to re-enter
> a different standards body process requirements, why not simply do it
> all within the standards body, as a proposal it's clearly sufficient to
> start work, after all we are doing.  Why not do it now within the
> auspicies of such an organisation.

Do you know of an organisation that would be able to move as fast as

> > Because specs that are designed by committee largely suck. In fact of
> > all the specs I've been involved with, I can pretty much state
> > categorically that all those that were written by a single editor
> > taking input from others but being basically autonomous are better
> > than all those where the design was driven by committees and votes.
> I didn't suggest design by commitee, I suggested final arbitration by
> vote, that's very different. You've already got a design by committee
> it's in the charter, there's currently 7 members, that's a commitee,
> you're not guiding the process, you're simply editing the a document
> that is the result of the committee - if I've got that wrong, and you
> are actually writing it with only input from others, then I don't think
> that's really what the charter says, could it be clarified?

"Each document shall have an assigned editor. Editors should reflect the
consensus opinion of the working group when writing their specifications".
Is that unclear?

I'm again not really sure what you are asking for here.

> What's the motivation for us individuals from outside the WHATWG
> devoting resources now, rather than when the actual standard is being
> specificied?

There is none that I can think of.

> > That rather depends on the precise sections in question. In practice,
> > the kinds of tests I write involve the interactions of anything that
> > is in any way interrelated, so sections 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7 would all
> > have to interoperate together for section 5.6.1 to be considered
> > interoperable.
> So it's not actually per section or subsection as it says in the
> charter, but simply on interopable parts that link together, "per
> feature" as is commonly used in the W3 process - this is much clearer
> language.

What does "feature" mean? Certainly sctions 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7 cover more
than one feature.

> > I don't have anything to say on the patent situation, except that
> > obviously it's in all our interests if this work is not patent
> > encumbered. Unfortunately all patent issues have to deal with lawyers
> > and lawyers aren't known for their swift actions.
> Have you or any of the other 6 members of the WG consulted any? surely
> it's not difficult unless any of the 7 of you actually have patents to
> state you don't and won't seek to obtain any without giving a RF licence
> to anyone? Of course with this, it'd probably be best to get this into a
> proper standards body who can employ such lawyers quickly, I don't want
> to find out in 3 years that Apple actually hold a patent on web-forms
> (to take an example), and have wasted all the good work.

Like I said, this is being examined.

(Although, while I agree that it would be nice for, e.g., Opera to say "we
don't have any patents" or "any patents we have on this can be used
royalty free in return for a license from the licensee allowing us to use
any of their patents", I don't see how the members doing this would help
if the patent is owned by someone else, which is much more likely given
the players involved.)

> > If pressed, I imagine the answer will be "no" (we won't solicit such
> > approval). In fact I wouldn't expect the members to get in any way
> > involved with any third party archiving.
> Right, so there's no way we can safely archive the responses without
> individually soliciting approval.  That's unfortunate.


Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'

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