> So much quarreling about open standards. Jason Matusow advocates for a
> document format with RAND licensing conditions for the patents. What
> does he mean when he talks about RAND? RAND stands for "reasonable and
> non-discriminatory". But Jason Matusow's company Microsoft lacks honesty
> when it talks about "reasonable and non-discriminatory" conditions.
> We need to be precise about what reasonable and non-discriminatory
> actually means. A restaurant in apartheid South Africa said it allowed
> both Boers and English, so was "not discriminatory". It even let some
> Jews in. However it banned non-whites.
> Reasonable and non-discriminatory in patent licensing means "we apply a
> uniform fee". However with respect to Microsoft's legacy OOXML format,
> one party controls the standard and the associated patents. All market
> players need to license except the patent owner. For dominant standards
> it is a tax on the market. It seems highly unreasonable that such
> standards should become international standards, mandatory for
> government users.
> You may find it unreasonable for an ubiquitous standard. But there is a
> more insidious aspect. RAND patent licensing conditions are a tool to
> ban Free Software, which is entirely incompatible with RAND licensing
> conditions. Now one side of the debate blames it on the patent licensing
> conditions, the other side on the software licensing conditions.
> "The reason I agree with the statement about patents and Free
> Software not mixing is that there have been terms written into GPL
> licenses that explicitly conflict with software patents. Okay, that is
> the choice of the authors and users of those licenses."
> It sounds a bit like: well, you chose to marry an African woman, so we
> cannot let you into the restaurant. Free choice, right?
> Yes, Matusow calls his standards with RAND conditions "open standards"
> and contradicts the commonly accepted definition of "open standards". We
> should speak about shared standards. These shared standards appear to
> discriminate less, but they still discriminate against the only real
> competitor to Microsoft's hegemony.
> It is true that ISO, driven by simple pragmatism, allows shared
> standards. From the ISO/IEC directives:
> "14.1 If, in exceptional situations, technical reasons justify such
> a step, there is no objection in principle to preparing an International
> Standard in terms which include the use of items covered by patent
> rights ? defined as patents, utility models and other statutory rights
> based on inventions, including any published applications for any of the
> foregoing ? even if the terms of the standard are such that there are no
> alternative means of compliance."
> Generally international standards and patents are like water and oil,
> and RAND conditions are the soap that allow them to mix. But as the move
> towards Open Standards evolves, shared standards get more and more
> unacceptable. Shared standards do discriminate and do appear to be
> It is time to adapt the legal definition of reasonable and
> non-discriminatory to common sense.