[cabfpub] An observation and proposal on resolving IPR concerns

Eric Mill eric at konklone.com
Sun Nov 6 21:10:49 UTC 2016

Hi all,

I'm a relative newcomer to the Forum, and the operator of neither a browser
nor a CA, but I'll try to contribute something anyway. If it's not useful,
I'll understand.

Looking at just what's been shared on the public list, it appears that the
Forum is in an existential crisis, and lacks a shared agreement on what its
Bylaws say, and the resulting legal strength of current IPR guarantees
around its ballots and work product.

The subject matter is more complicated and legalistic than usual, and
interpersonal tensions seem to be running higher than usual, which is
combining to make it very difficult to understand the different
perspectives people have and for this to remain a merit-based discussion.

Gerv's done a great job tracking the pros/cons of the differing
interpretations of the current bylaws, but it's seeming increasingly likely
that neither side is going to be persuaded to accept the other's point of
view. At that point, it doesn't matter who's right -- the Bylaws and IPR
policy are a failure if the group can't agree on what they mean.

It also seems very likely that if the current trajectory continues, the
Forum could just dissolve, as one or more browsers leave over these
disagreements. While perhaps another Forum might emerge, making the
existing Forum work for its participants would likely result in a more
stable and predictable outcome.

So, while acknowledging that I lack the complete historical context and
professional vantage point to fully adjudicate every specific point each
side makes, it still seems to me that a productive path forward would be to:

* Acknowledge that the existing Bylaws and IPR policy contain fatal
ambiguities around IP review and balloting as it relates to published

* Proceed to drafting one or more ballots that would amend the Bylaws
and/or IPR policy to resolve these ambiguities.

* While drafting these ballots, relevant parties should make a good-faith
effort to distinguish between a policy they think is not good for the
Forum, vs a policy that would make them unable to continue participating in
the Forum.

* Take a straw poll of all members on the proposed ballot(s), and then
decide which one to put to a formal vote. Hopefully, at least one of them
is acceptable to the Forum.

While this won't make every core disagreement go away, it would at least
remove disagreements over existing language, and focus the Forum on an
acceptable (even if not ideal) IPR policy for all parties.

This means abandoning ballots 180-182. It seems to me like they're going to
be abandoned one way or the other, so it would be better to abandon them
voluntarily and up front.

No matter what, I hope all parties to the Forum will strive to remain
positive and collaborative under stress, and to seek sustainable consensus
over ephemeral victory.

-- Eric

konklone.com | @konklone <https://twitter.com/konklone>
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