[Fsfe-ie] A2K Treaty discussions & patents
teresahackett at eircom.net
Wed Feb 9 20:45:26 CET 2005
A meeting last week in Geneva discussing a draft international treaty on
access to knowledge included Harald Tveit Alvestrand,
Chair of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) as a panelist: "A
panel where I was part talked about the effects of patents on the
standards process - I described the chilling effects of patents
disclosed during the standards process, as well as the issue of
"submarine" patents and how the standards process is powerless to
prevent those from happening. A specific proposal on "forcing
disclosure" was on the table, but definitely "not baked".
For more information on A2K see http://www.cptech.org/ip/wipo/
Extract from report by Martin Khor, Third World Network
The meeting also discussed how the existence and non disclosure of
patents affect the development and use of standards. A participant
[Harald Tveit Alvestrand, Chair of IETF] who is dealing with developing
standards in relation to the internet explains that in the use of the
internet, standards are needed to enable people to work together.
Patents are having an effect on the development of standards because the
use of a standard may require permission from the owners of patents on
inventions the use of which are needed to meet certain standards.
It was explained that patents have a chilling effect in discouraging
standards from being established, as well as a chilling effect in the
use of standards when they have been established.
The standards development organizations (which are responsible for
negotiating and establishing standards) concerned have to address two
problems in relation to patents: it has to determine which patents (if
any) are relevant to the standard, and if patents are involved it has to
determine if there are acceptable licensing terms for the patented
Part of the problem is that holders of patents on inventions the use of
which are needed in the use of standards and protocols often do not
disclose the existence of such patents when the standards are being
developed. When companies or individuals attempt to comply with or use
the standards, the patent holder may then disclose it owns the patent,
and that the users of the standards have to pay for use of the patent or
face being sued.
This discourages people from participating in developing or making use
of the standards, which in turn reduces the quality of standards.
Some participants then proposed that that a protocol be developed within
WIPO to set up mechanisms to manage the disclosure of patents relevant
to standards. Members that sign on to the protocol would be obliged to
support the disclosure process, and to prevent any patent owner who
failed to provide disclosure from enforcing a patent against the
implementation of the standard.
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