FW: IETF IP Contribution Policy

Lawrence Rosen lrosen at rosenlaw.com
Thu Jan 18 20:38:30 UTC 2007

I'm forwarding this at Steven Bellovin's request. I again apologize if this
duplicates another posting. /Larry


[Larry, I'd appreciate it if you'd forward my response to the legal-discuss
and license-discuss mailing lists -- I don't subscribe to them,  so my note
probably won't go through.]

Speaking as one of the chairs of the IPR working group, let me correct a few

First -- this is not a new "proposal" by the IETF working group.  The patent
policy has been in place for many years.  It was reaffirmed most recently in
2003; more on that below.  The new document was never intended to change
patent policy (nor even to reaffirm it); rather, it was intended to fix some
bugs in the previous copyright policy document and to adapt to changes in
the administrative infrastructure supporting the IETF.

Second -- structurally, the IPR working group is not allowed to propose
changes to the current patent policy.  We're only allowed to work on items
described by our charter; see
http://www.ietf.org/html.charters/ipr-charter.html .  While I realize that a
legalistic, context-free reading of the charter might come to a different
conclusion, we don't have to wonder about the "original intent" of the
authors -- as one of them, I guarantee that it was quite explicitly intended
to have forestall any work on patent policy.

I say that because of the history of this WG.  There were similar calls to
change the IETF's patent policy several years ago.  I made the same response
-- the group was not chartered to change it.  But I told the pro-change
community that when we had completed our assigned tasks, we would have an
open discussion and consensus call on whether or not we should recharter to
change the IETF's patent policy.  The result -- which I announced on April
9, 2003 -- was very clear: there was a consensus against any change.  I know
of no changes in the membership or constituency of the IETF, or the legal
environment within which we operate, that makes me think the result would be
any different today.

Last -- Larry's note quoted Harald Alvestrand, the other IPR-WG chair, as
suggesting discussion on an open mailing list.  It seemed to me that Larry's
note could be misread as suggesting that the IPR-WG's mailing list was an
appropriate venue.  It's not -- by IETF policy (and I'll quote the RFCs if
people want), working group mailing lists are for the working group's
chartered tasks.  As Harald and I both posted to that mailing in the last
few days, we are not chartered to discuss changes in the patent policy;
therefore, such postings are out of scope and out of line.  The list is
open, in that anyone can join and and participate in the work of the group.
It is not open to off-topic postings -- and discussions of changing the
patent policy are off-topic.

It is, of course, permissible to request rechartering or the formation of a
new working group.  I can tell you right now that neither Harald nor I will
support such a request at this time.  I also suspect that our AD would not
approve any such request were we to make one, since we're late on delivering
our currently-chartered documents.  

More information about the License-discuss mailing list