Lawrence Rosen lrosen at
Sat Apr 16 00:34:13 UTC 2005

I don't believe this letter has received much press, but it is important to
the entire free software and open source community. I believe we achieved an
important victory in OASIS about patents. 


Dear colleagues,

This morning I was delighted to read in the New York Times that IBM has
committed "all of its future patent contributions to the largest standards
group for electronic commerce on the Web, the Organization for the
Advancement of Structured Information Standards, would be free." [1]

I don't think it is too soon to congratulate ourselves that a huge battle
has been won. IBM is the big gorilla in the patent zoo, and when it agrees
to open standards in OASIS we're a good long way to victory. I'm confident
other companies will join as they recognize that it is in their own best
interest to do so. The newspaper story doesn't have all the details, of
course, and companies (through their lawyers and standards professionals)
will be rewriting the rules over time to implement freedom in OASIS. There
may still be skirmishes among the professionals. But in broad brush, I think
we just won "No RAND in OASIS."

The free software and open source communities and customers worldwide can
apparently be reassured that a large chunk of patents have been made
available for free when we implement OASIS industry standards. That's good

Of course, as Richard Stallman and many others remind us, software patents
continue to confound even when we're not implementing industry standard
software. Most of us believe the entire patent system is ripe for dramatic
reform to better meet its stated goals. Many of us share a dream of a rich
commons of software and content that is free from so-called "intellectual
property" ownership. That's the broader war many of us continue to fight.
But the battle in OASIS, I predict, will soon be history.

Thanks to each of the signatories, and to the many folks around the world
who wrote in support. 

Best regards,

/Lawrence Rosen


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