ayers's blog

Free Software on a Free Market

RF vs. (F)RAND Policy on Open Standards

The goal of a Standard is to define properties that are mutually agreed upon by interested parties, leveling the playing field of the participants and enabling them to independently develop tools, products, i.e. solutions, in particular components thereof, that interoperate.

Any IT Standard which is to be considered an Open Standard must include Free Software in this day when leading analysts claim it penetrates 85% of the IT-industry and counting.
It is a fundamental aspect of Free Software that it insures

2. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor

i.e. that you are free to redistribute the program without royalties. This just as true for the proponents of the marketing term Open Source who formulate it explicitly in their definition:

1. The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.

Therefor in the context of the IT-Industry, any patents covering the implementation of any part of an Open Standard must be licensed in a Royalty Free (RF) manor.  A policy that allows (F)RAND licensing on patents that cover the implementation of a standard cannot be considered open in any meaningful way for the IT-industry of today, let alone the future.

Developing Open Standards and the technology which implements them can be costly.  It is purported that patents are the vehicle to finance such development, yet in reality such technologies and standardization processes are currently already subsidized by public spending.  And this is a good thing!  In fact, to help insure vendor independence the public sector should oversee and continue to help finance the development of Open Standards technically developed by parties in the industry.  To verify the sufficiency of an Open Standard, the public sector should finance a Free Software reference implementation based on the Open Standard.

This approach negates the need any further compensation in the form of (F)RAND licensing of patents.  It insures the neutrality of Open Standards and verifies the quality.  Most importantly it insures that the market delivers on the promise of what an Open Standard should achieve for the user, be it corporate or consumer: Interoperability.

Tags: , ,