[Fsfe-ie] A2K Treaty discussions & patents

Teresa Hackett 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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