[Fsfe-ie] Tim Berners-Lee on software patents

Ben North ben at redfrontdoor.org
Mon Oct 4 12:41:52 CEST 2004

Another credible source supporting the "software patents hinder
innovation" argument?


PS: Did anybody have any comments on the letterheads I roughed out?  If
there's one which the list thinks could work, I'll tune the dimensions


- - - - 8< - - - -

Web pioneer warns of patent licensing royalty threat

By Steven Burke, CRN
September 29, 2004 (2:50 PM EDT)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. --- Speaking at the Emerging Technologies Conference at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Wednesday (Sept. 29), World
Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee said royalty-free standards are key to
advancing the online world.

Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), told
several hundred attendees at the MIT conference that it's "very
important" that everyone involved makes sure the Web is not "tripped up
by software patents."

"If you want a good laugh, go look at patent applications," he said,
adding that companies seeking royalties for patents are "always a
threat" to emerging technologies.

Companies building new network functionality should "make sure the
standards on which it is based are royalty-free," Berners-Lee said. "The
best thing you can do is to get everybody to commit to whatever
happens. They are not going to charge you for implementing a standard."

All companies developing emerging technology are threatened by the
prospect of patent licensing royalties, Berners-Lee said. "You could
never find out what patent could possibly apply to what technology," he
said. "You could never guess what things people might have the gall to
say they have patented already. It really is a universal fear."

To address such concern, W3C, an open forum of companies and
organizations chartered with adopting new Web standards, is promoting a
royalty-free standards policy for patent licensing. "It is a common
agreement," Berners-Lee said. "It shows an understanding that if you are
trying to build a new market, then the common standard infrastructure
must be royalty-free."

Nevertheless, getting various companies to agree on standards is
difficult, Berners-Lee said. "It takes a much bigger person to look at
how someone does something differently" and to agree to adopt that
technology as a standard, he said.

Berners-Lee, who holds the 3Com Founders Chair at MIT's Computer,
Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, said the next big advance for
the Internet is the Semantic Web, which he described as Web technology
that will pave the way for "applications that will be connected by

"All the information is in different places. It is just not connected,"
he said.

Berners-Lee compared the Semantic Web to the process of implementing ZIP
codes for the U.S. postal system. The Semantic Web will "blow away
enterprise application integration," he said. "Who knows what sort of
Google will be built on top of this?"

Yet as the next generation of Web functionality is developed, a large
amount of money will be at stake, raising the specter of patent
licensing royalties, Berners-Lee said. "We are talking about making new
markets," he said. "These are huge problems. They are going to be huge

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