Re: Last Call on draft-bradner-rfc3979bis-08.txt ("Intellectual Property Rights in IETF Technology")

John C Klensin <> Tue, 12 April 2016 09:29 UTC

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Date: Tue, 12 Apr 2016 05:29:08 -0400
From: John C Klensin <>
To: Alissa Cooper <>, Jari Arkko <>
Subject: Re: Last Call on draft-bradner-rfc3979bis-08.txt ("Intellectual Property Rights in IETF Technology")
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--On Monday, April 11, 2016 15:33 -0700 Alissa Cooper
<> wrote:

>> Personally, I'd love to see the draft talk about AD
>> participation just like it talks about other people's
>> participation. If I really haven't participated in WG X,
>> well, I haven't, even if my co-AD owns the group :-) And if
>> I did participate, well, I should declare the IPR that I know
>> of :-)
> +1
> This is what did not make sense to me about the draft. 


I'm fine with the above, but I think there is a delicate line
involved.  Let me try to explain it this way.  As a random
member of the community, whether I'm participating in a WG, or
even actively monitoring it, is fairly clear.  If, for example,
I'm attending its meetings (f2f or remotely) or signed up for
its mailing list, the community should be able to assume that
I'm watching the work in that WG and should be required to make
relevant IPR disclosures even if I don't actually say anything
or otherwise generate Contributions.    If I do none of those
things but occasionally check on mailing list archives, read
Last Call announcements, I think the community needs to take my
word for it if I claim to be "not participating".

I think things are a little different (but only a little) if
there is management involvement.  If you are the AD responsible
for a WG, then I think the community gets to assume that you
know what its work items are, have approved document editors,
and have at least read the abstracts of the various drafts,
i.e., that you are participating.  If you are some other AD in
the same area, well, areas differ a lot and over time.  In some
cases, ADs shadow each other as a mutual backup arrangements and
I'd expect to be able to treat all ADs in the same area as
"participating" in all WGs.  In others, WGs get divided up among
ADs, after which the area might as well be as many separate ones
as there are ADs.  At IETF evaluation time, any ADs who record a
position other that "abstain" on a spec, or to engage in any
IESG discussion about it, has presumably studied that spec
closely enough to incur disclosure obligations if IPR is known
to them because making a decision to adopt (or not) is clearly
"participation".  The same issue might exist with Co-chairs of a
WG with many tasks.  I'd normally assume that each one is
familiar with and participating in every work item, but it isn't
hard to imagine situations in which work might be split up along
clear boundaries with one co-chair getting involved in the work
of the other only at around the time of Last Call if then.

All of that said, I think that trying to create a collection of
very specific rules or definitions to cover each case and
variations on it is almost certain to cause more harm than good.
I think the intent of the rules -- that anyone who has
contributed to a spec or put themselves in a position in which
they influence an IETF decision to adopt (or not) or publish (or
not) has disclosure obligations (whether direct or third-party
as discussed in the I-D). My expectation is that WG Chairs and,
to even a greater extent, ADs, will be sensitive to the intent
of the rules.  To do otherwise would be a breach of the trust
the community placed in them and that would be at least as
serious, perhaps more, than breaching the letter of the IPR

If we need rule changes in that area, they probably lie in
making recalls more feasible rather than more case analysis in
the IPR document(s).   If the latter documents need anything
extra, perhaps it is an explicit statement to the effect of
"Because of the trust the community places in them and the
consensus-determination and decision authority associated with
their positions, IETF Leadership including WG Chairs and Nomcom
appointees are expected to be especially diligent in observing
the intent of these rules".