Progress in the VoiceXML Intellectual Property Licensing Debacle
In January of 2002 the World Wide Web Consortium released a rule that requires Web standards to be issued royalty free (RF). Some VoiceXML contributors hold intellectual property related to the VoiceXML standard. Some of those companies have already issued royalty free licenses, while others have agreed to reasonable and non-discriminatory (RAND) licensing terms, meaning any vendor that implemented the specification in a commercial application would have to negotiate licensing fees with those contributors. Intellectual property rights have become a big concern in the Web standardization process.
The fact that not all contributors have switched to a royalty free licensing model has been a thorn in the progress if the VoiceXML standard. I've voiced my concerns previously on this issue, specifically in SALT submission to W3C could impact the future of VoiceXML.
IBM and Nokia lead the way
Recently, IBM and Nokia changed their licensing terms from RAND to RF. At the VoiceXML Planet Conference & Expo on September 27, Ray Ozborne, Vice President of the IBM Pervasive Computing Division assured the audience at the end of his keynote speech that IBM would be releasing all intellectual property that related to the VoiceXML and XHTML+Voice specifications royalty free and encouraged the other participants to do the same.
Companies not offering RF licenses
First, I would like to thank IBM and Nokia which recently changed their licensing terms from RAND to RF.
On behalf of the companies and developers that have invested time and resources into advancing the VoiceXML specification including those companies who already provide royal free licenses, I would encourage the following companies and any others that I have neglected to mention who have not converted from RAND to RF licensing terms to do so:
- Avaya (supports VoiceXML in Conversant)
- Lucent (offers the MiLife VoiceXML Gateway)
- Motorola (developed a VoiceXML browser)
- Philips (have an ASR that is used by some VoiceXML browsers)
- Telera (Now owned by Alcatel, have a VoiceXML gateway)
If VoiceXML is going to survive as a Web standard, then all contributors must license their IP royalty free, otherwise, the large investment that's been made will go down the drain. My hope is that the voice browser group at the W3C will either resolve these licensing issues in the next six months or jettison VoiceXML and replace it with SALT. Either way, I believe that it would be prudent for voice gateway vendors to be working on a SALT browser so that customers have the option down the road.
About Jonathan Eisenzopf
Jonathan is a Senior Partner of The Ferrum Group, LLC which provides consulting, training, and professional services. Feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org regarding questions or comments about this or any article.