[ffii] Internet standards process undermined by software patents
jmaebe at ffii.org
Tue Jun 27 10:53:58 CEST 2006
PRESS RELEASE -- [ Europe / Economy / ICT ]
Internet standards process undermined by software patents
Brussels, 26 June 2006 -- The IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force)
Working Group for a new standard for the "syslog" protocol is being
confronted by an undisclosed software patent by one of its Working Group
members, the Chinese company Huawei. This patent supposedly covers part
of the work done by the standards group. Huawei proposes a royalty free
license, but the working group remains unhappy.
"The proposed license can be revoked at any time", explains Jonas Maebe
of the FFII, "which means that there is no guarantee to anyone who
implements this standard that they won't be hit with arbitrary royalty
claims in the future."
Exactly this happened when part of the JPEG image compression algorithm
was patented, and the patent owners (Compression Labs Inc.) offered a
royalty free license. Compression Labs went bankrupt, Forgent bought
the company and its patents, and the result was that thousands of firms
were forced to pay for using an image format which had become the
standard for every web site and digital camera.
"People will not take the risk of adopting new standards that have this
kind of patent risk," adds Rainer Gerhards of the IETF syslog working
group. "If we cannot produce new software standards, innovation will
slow down and stop. Imagine being forced to use 1980's infrastructure
to do business today."
In Europe, the FFII educates the people about the dangers of software
patents, while the EU Commission is still fighting to have these
legalised on a wide scale across Europe. Last week, Commissioner
McCreevy said before the EP's Legal Affairs Committee that "protection
of intellectual property stimulates and rewards innovation". This lofty
promise is overly general, since software patents are obviously killing
the standards process and all the innovation that depends on it.
FFII president Pieter Hintjens concludes: "Standards are the backbone of
the modern IT industry. They create new markets, new businesses and
jobs. I challenge any pro-patent lobbyist to explain how a new software
standard can be published today without risk of a patent ambush. It's a
simple question. The IETF would be keen to have an answer, and so would
the hundreds of thousands of IT professionals whose jobs depend on
* Disclosure of unpublished patent application to IETF and discussion
* Latest version of the license offered by Hauwei
* Follow-on discussions about alternatives to work around the patent
(of which it is not yet known what it covers exactly)
* McCreevy's speech before JURI (Legal Affairs Committee) last Thursday
* Permanent link to this press release
FFII Board Member
jmaebe at ffii.org
+32-2-414 84 03 (fixed)
+32-484-56 61 09 (mobile)
bhenrion at ffii.org
About the FFII -- http://www.ffii.org
The FFII is a not-for-profit association registered in twenty European
countries, dedicated to the development of information goods for the
public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, open standards.
More than 850 members, 3,500 companies and 100,000 supporters have
entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions
concerning exclusion rights (intellectual property) in data processing.
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