Now, a calcified, creaky, and lopsided patent structure threatens to gum up the two best things we have going for us in this decade -- Web services and open source.
Some say that major infrastructure vendors such as IBM, Microsoft and BEA Systems moved their standards development efforts from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to OASIS because they could better lock in their patented technology under OASIS' terms.
Now, CNET's Paul Festa reports on an effort to boycott OASIS on the basis of its recently announced patent policy. According to a letter from some leading open-source software luminaries, OASIS' policy (detailed here):
- "...permits standards to be based upon so-called 'reasonable and non-discriminatory' patent license terms -- terms which invariably and unreasonably discriminate against open source and free software to the point of prohibiting them entirely. It would lead to the adoption of standards that cannot be implemented in open source and free software, that cannot be distributed under our licenses..."
- "...The OASIS patent policy will encourage large patent holders to negotiate private arrangements among themselves, locking out all free software and open source developers."
OASIS CEO Patrick Gannon responds that his group's policy "is as strong as the W3C policy in terms ofspecifying work to be royalty-free. Our policy states that standards may incorporate workthat is patented, but that they have to disclose it. And in almost allcases, that results in a royalty-free license for that work." OASISsaid that it revised its policy to specify three modes for standards work: RAND, orreasonable and nondiscriminatory licensing; RF, or royalty-free, onRAND terms; or RF on limited terms.
Let's learn from the SCO debacle. Let's compete on the basis of how well our solutions meet the needs of businesses and organizations. May the best products win where they're supposed to win -- in the marketplace. We don't want lawyers telling us which software we have to use.