Under the terms of the new OASIS IPR policy, OASIS members working on specifications can choose to license their submissions under either an RAND (Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory) mode, an RF (Royalty-Free) on RAND mode or a Royalty-Free on Limited Terms mode, said Patrick Gannon, president and CEO of OASIS.
According to OASIS officials, RAND defines a basic set of minimal terms a patent holder is obliged to offer and leaves all other non-specified terms to negotiations between the patent holder and the implementer seeking a license. RF on RAND terms are similar to RAND, except the patent holder cannot charge fees or royalties for the license. RF on Limited Terms has the same terms as RF on RAND, except it specifies the exact licensing terms and conditions that must be granted upon request, Gannon said.
Ed Cobb, chair of the OASIS IPR committee and vice president of architecture and standards at BEA Systems Inc., said before the revision the OASIS IPR policy was based on years-old policy from the Internet Engineering Task Force, which has grown a bit old in the ever-changing Internet and software worlds.
Whether correct or not, some perceived OASIS as being somewhat "soft" on IPR policy.
Gannon said that is nothing but a "misinterpretation or misconception."
"The precepts were aligned with the IETF, and though we did have RAND as a baseline, we had mandates in place to do royalty-free work," he said. "And if you look at it, the majority of the standards produced at OASIS were in a royalty-free manner."
Still, Cobb said the organizations IPR policies were due for an overhaul because "there was no strong language as far as licensing commitments. There was a certain amount of uncertainty. And one of the things we wanted to accomplish was to put some teeth into the policy."
The move to make the IPR policies more concrete was member-driven, Gannon said. "It came out of questions that came up over the years, and we got into it with our legal counsel to take a look at what was the state of the art."
Eric Newcomer, chief technology officer at Iona Technologies plc, in Dublin, Ireland, and an OASIS member, said, "In the past it often wasnt clear what the IP rights were that pertained to OASIS TCs [technical committees] since it was more or less up to the individual TC charter. Some of the TCs, such as BPEL [Business Process Execution Language], for example, were chartered under IP policies that continued to encumber the specs."
Indeed, said Newcomer, "whats needed is a policy that ensures specs arent encumbered by IP rights. Instead of that, OASIS has adopted a policy that requires the TCs to clearly state their IP policy and choose one of three policy options. The choice under the new policy basically boils down to encumbered or unencumbered specs, with two variations on unencumbered.
"So from that point of view its real progress but probably still not as far as Id like to see them go," Newcomer said. "I would like to see OASIS be as tough about this as W3C [Worldwide Web Consortium]. Specs should not be encumbered by patents or other IP rights. I realize there may be some cases in which this is OK, but as a general rule the industry should be promoting competition based on open specs, and thinking about IP rights as they pertain to the implementations, not the specifications."