Leaders Denounce OASIS Patent Policies

Open-source advocates join forces to call on the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards to make its new patent policies more open-source-friendly.

Open-source advocates from the Apache Foundation, Red Hat Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. are demanding that the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards change its new patent policy.

With the new OASIS intellectual property rights policy, OASIS members working on specifications can choose to license their submissions under either a RAND (Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory) mode, an RF (Royalty-Free) on RAND mode or a Royalty-Free on Limited Terms mode.

Open source leaders are objecting to the RAND license.

By permitting "standards to be based upon so-called reasonable and non-discriminatory patent license terms," the group claims that these terms "invariably and unreasonably discriminate against open source and free software to the point of prohibiting them entirely," wrote Lawrence Rosen, a partner in the law firm Rosenlaw & Einschlag and author of "Open-Source Licensing: Software Freedom and Intellectual Property Law," in the groups open letter.

This would, according to the more than two dozen open-source leaders, "lead to the adoption of standards that cannot be implemented in open source and free software, that cannot be distributed under our licenses."

The signers, who include Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, Tim OReilly, CEO of OReilly Associates, and Stuart Cohen, CEO of the Open Source Development Labs Inc., say they understand that OASIS new policy includes "a provision for royalty-free standards."

But, they claim, "it is a secondary option, which will have little effect if a few OASIS members with patents can ensure it is not used. The OASIS patent policy will encourage large patent holders to negotiate private arrangements among themselves, locking out all free software and open-source developers."

Why has this happened? The open-source supporters have a theory.

"We fought hard for a royalty-free patent policy in W3C [World Wide Web Consortium] and encouraged that standards organization to commit its members to open standards. But some W3C member companies, steadfast opponents of software freedom, moved their efforts to OASIS."

/zimages/5/28571.gifTo read more about W3C and OASIS recommending standards for Web services, click here.

Then, "without consulting the free software/open-source community, they produced a patent policy designed so that we cannot live with it."

Several of the signers were asked which companies they were referring to, but all declined to answer.

Microsoft, which has little love for open source, is a member of both organizations.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read more about Microsoft citing open source as a threat to its business model.

Therefore, the open-source leaders are now calling on companies and organizations "to stand with us in opposition to the OASIS patent policy. Do not implement OASIS standards that arent open. Demand that OASIS revise its policies. If you are an OASIS member, do not participate in any working group that allows encumbered standards that cannot be implemented in open source and free software."

OASIS did not return messages seeking comment before this story was published.

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