FW: IETF IP Contribution Policy

Brian Behlendorf brian at collab.net
Mon Jan 22 05:59:14 UTC 2007

It was pointed out to me that the following is not true:

On Fri, 19 Jan 2007, Brian Behlendorf wrote:
> I see that there was only one IPR filing in 2006, compared to 11 in 2005. Is 
> that a sign that standards efforts at the IETF are trending towards 
> encumbrance-free?  Is this a problem that will solve itself?

...nor the conclusions that followed.  The list of disclosures is at


and I failed to notice that there are not one list but three lists, one of 
"generic" disclosures that is short, and another of "specific" disclosures 
that is much longer, followed by a list of "third-party specific 
disclosures".  There is a handy search engine to be able to look for 
disclosures based on RFC number, but as the few searches I initiall 
performed did not turn up any hits, I made the mistaken assumption that it 
was a sparse dataset.

Specific disclosures per year:

2007	13
2006	86
2005	143 
2004	103
2003	76
2002	51
(and others going back to 1993)

My quick-and-dirty analysis in my original email that most of the grants 
were RAND and many were RF might still be true, but I don't have the 
personal time right now to repeat that with such a large dataset.  The dip 
to 86 in 2006 is not a clear trend that disclosures are declining; the 
indication that it might have been the case with the generic disclosures 
might simply mean that the most common corporate filers had made their 
blanket disclosures by a few years ago and they did not need updating.

Doing an "ROI" study to see whether on balance this policy has resulted in 
better standards and avoided onerous encumbrances would be fertile ground 
for a business school research report, perhaps.

I still stand behind the following:

> It also appears that you now have nearly 8 years of a disclosure policy under 
> the organization's belt, and a reasonable cost/benefit analysis could be 
> done. Have you gone to those who've disclosed IPR and asked them whether the 
> revenue they received from such activities was worth it?  If it can't be 
> substantiated that revenues from patent licensing were necessary to incent 
> participation in the IETF, then an RF policy is hard to argue against.
> One of the advantages of a clear policy like the ASF has is the simplicity it 
> creates for all participants, and the corresponding trust.  Seeing an 
> industry leader participating in a particular effort reassures everyone that 
> the leader won't pull a Rambus and swamp everyone's investment of time and 
> thus money into a royalty scheme no matter how "fair and reasonable" that 
> company might decide that it is being.
> You might be able to treat Larry like an outsider to the IETF process, but 
> many of the people who made the IETF relevant as an organization did so by 
> writing Open Source software, sometimes just as reference implementations but 
> often by being the category-leading implementations.  Legal jeopardy for 
> writing software that implements common standards and giving it away for free 
> is increasing, which is the opposite of what it should be.


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