[CC'd to the main IETF list]
[Note: Not very long ago, I argued persuasively to a large and broad
movement within the IETF seeking to have the IETF adopt an anti-patent
position. I took my position pragmatically on the basis that the IETF
should consider patented technology intelligently on a case-by-case basis
in order to ensure participation by pro-patent groups and organizations
whose cooperation is necessary and beneficial to the IETF. This is a
pragmatic and reasonable view; The IETF interests in patented technology
are different from my ideological interests in abolishing software
patents, even if those interests have broad support. Interoperable
standards are more important than ideology. Placing interoperation ahead
of ideological interests, I saw the value in having participation and
cooperation on standards regardless of ideological differences. However,
having persuaded people to take a pragmatic and cooperative view,
pro-patent persons shouldn't try to exploit that cooperation by attempting
to prevent or suppress consideration of IPR issues by working groups.]
The statement of the WG chair (included below) is not consistent with the
IETF rules on IPR disclosure and consideration.
For your reference: RFC 3979:
6.1.1. A Contributor's IPR in his or her Contribution
Any Contributor who reasonably and personally knows of IPR meeting
the conditions of Section 6.6 which the Contributor believes Covers
or may ultimately Cover his or her Contribution, or which the
Contributor reasonably and personally knows his or her employer or
sponsor may assert against Implementing Technologies based on such
Contribution, must make a disclosure in accordance with this Section
This requirement specifically includes Contributions that are made by
any means including electronic or spoken comments, unless the latter
are rejected from consideration before a disclosure could reasonably
be submitted. An IPR discloser is requested to withdraw a previous
disclosure if a revised Contribution negates the previous IPR
disclosure, or to amend a previous disclosure if a revised
Contribution substantially alters the previous disclosure.
Contributors must disclose IPR meeting the description in this
section; there are no exceptions to this rule.
The fact that a discussion may be legal in nature is of no relevance. We
live in a professional world bounded by legal constraints. The working
group must ensure that IETF requirements on IPR disclosure are met, and
that IPR encumbrances are properly and fully considered by the working
group participants in the selection of technology. Patent encumbrance is
a valid basis for comparison of any proposal. And IPR encumbrance is in
fact not limited mere comparison, but even whether to adopt a given
technology at all; Rejection because of IPR encumbrance is a valid option
to be decided on a case-by-case basis.
I do not see that the WG Chair is allowed by IETF policy to exclude or
suppress information or discussion about IPR encumbrance, which seems to
be the purpose of suppressing this discussion. This is contrary to IETF
policy, which is to have each WG intelligently consider IPR issues.
Also, the WG chair makes mention of two documents. In fact, there are 3
documents noted in the minutes which seem to have IPR encumbrances:
Two are reported in the minutes under the heading of "IPR Issues update".
These two have IPR statements, but the IPR encumbrances have not been
discussed or considered on list.
However, the IPR section of the minutes has an ominous quote about these
"There is a license available that is royalty free, but does have some
terms. So implementors either don't know what to do or are ignoring
Clearly, more discussion should be stimulated. It should also be
worthwhile for the WG to search for and consider alternatives that aren't
patent encumbered. This issue should be discussed, not ignored or
suppressed as a "rat-hole". This "rat-hole" nonsense is just a cover for a
submarine, pro-patent attempt to avoid discussion of the IPR issues in
these documents, and perhaps avoiding the possibility of a patent-free
But I am also concerned about a third document that is also mentioned in
This document does not have an IPR disclosure on the IETF IPR page.
The minutes state:
First something about draft-ietf-dnsext-ecc-key-07: There have been some
questions in the past about patents, but as far as is known, these only
cover specific implementations, not on the basic theory or scheme of it,
perhaps on specific equations.
As the President of the League for Programming Freedom, and a leader on
the topics of Patent, Copyright, and Trademark law, I do not find this
explanation of non-infringement to be credible. An IPR disclosure should
be made on this document. According to RFC 3979, Section 6.1.1 "there are
no exceptions to this rule". Further, the IETF is not to take any
position on the validity of an IPR claim. The IETF can't ignore the claim
as being invalid--that would be taking a position on its validity. The
claim has to be documented and disclosed, even if it may not be valid.
And also, the working group chairs should be directed to _encourage_
discussion and consideration of the IPR issues, not try to suppress the
Note RFC 3979 Section 6.2:
6.2. The Timing of Providing Disclosure
Timely IPR disclosure is important because working groups need to
have as much information as they can while they are evaluating
If the WG chairs are working to suppress IPR information and discussion,
it is not available for evaluation, in violation of the purpose of section
President of the League for Programming Freedom.
On Wed, 7 Sep 2005, Olaf M. Kolkman wrote:
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"Rat Hole Alert" [*]
Please stop this discussion.
For this working group the only relevance at this point is rough
consensus on the technical specification and running code. We have
neither at this point in time.
Lets get back to the technical task at hand. Compare the two proposals.
We want to issue is a "rat hole" alert:
Working groups tend to discuss the validity of patent claims, the
licensing terms and such at great lengths. In the end patent issues
are not technical but legal issues. It is up to the implementors of
technology under IPR to deal with these issues, not the working group.
If the IPR prohibits implementation than the WG would like to know,
from implementors. As rough consensus without running code does not
Or to paraphrase the above: we all have an opinion on IPR, this
is not the list to rehash those.
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