February 22, 2005 10:47 AM PST
OASIS patent policy sparks boycott
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it produced a revised patent policy, which made it all but impossible to standardize patented technologies that bear royalties.
OASIS billed its revised policy, set to take effect April 15, as a compromise to make its system more amenable to open-source advocates. Tuesday's e-mail campaign--and particularly the noteworthiness of its signatories--indicate how its move was received.
"The intellectual property policy seems to be a sop that they threw us," said Bruce Perens, a longtime open-source advocate. "There's the option for standards to be royalty-free but there's no strong incentive."
OASIS bristled at the claim that it hadn't considered open-source developers in revising its policy. Gannon said the group had numerous members involved in open-source development that had approved the revision and that OASIS had taken special care to vet the policy with intellectual property lawyers.
Gannon suggested it was possible but unlikely that OASIS might revise its policy again anytime soon.
"We looked at the needs of the open-source community in coming up with this revision, and therefore I cannot see what else they are advocating," Gannon said. "If a group of these people want to engage in a detailed review and make additional suggestions after considering how this is implemented, then they should submit that to our staff and we'll put it before the board. We have a process for continuing revision. But it's not clear to me what other changes need to be made."
The open-source industrial complex?
The conflict between open-source and intellectual-property demands has become particularly acute now that many technology giants have embraced open-source products such as Linux.
Last week, IBM pledged $100 million for Linux support in its upcoming Workplace software, a Microsoft Office competitor, for example. IBM routinely files more software patents every year than any other company and holds more than 10,000 of them.
Last month, Big Blue extended an olive branch to open-source developers, designating 500 of those patents royalty-free. Sun Microsystems made a similar offer to certain developers, and Computer Associates followed suit last week.
When it comes to standards-setting bodies like the W3C and OASIS, standards advocates call patents unfair, in light of open-source contributions to the industry.
Defenders of RAND-tolerant standards policies say standards suffer from exclusion of royalty-bearing technologies. OASIS saw substantial new involvement by companies including Microsoft, IBM and BEA Systems after the W3C's revised patent policy sent those companies to OASIS to develop Web services standards.
Perens attacked OASIS for having become a refuge for those companies.
"There's always going to be some standards organization somewhere that accommodates people who want to have royalty-bearing patents in their standards," Perens said. "With Microsoft, it's a competitive strategy and it has no place in a standards organization. We feel that for OASIS to have any stature as a standards organization, rather than something that just panders to the patent holders, it needs a better policy."
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