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Apple Computer's Statement on the Draft W3C Patent Policy
After careful consideration of the draft patent policy, Apple believes
that it is essential to continued interoperability and development of
the Web that fundamental W3C standards be available on a royalty-free
basis. In line with the W3Cs mission to lead the Web to
its full potential, Apple supports a W3C patent policy with an
immutable commitment to royalty-free licensing for fundamental Web
standards. Apple offers this statement in support of its
The promise of the Web is a common framework for exchange of information, with open access for a diverse pool of developers and users. Realization of this promise demands a licensing model that is likewise open and unencumbered by private rights. We believe that W3C membership should involve not only collaboration to develop standards, but also collaboration to ensure that those standards are, in fact, open and available to diverse users without charge.
At the same time, the corporate, governmental, institutional, and individual entities that support Web standardization by contributing and considering technology for adoption as a standard have legitimate interests in protecting through intellectual property rights the fruits of their own investments in technology. A patent policy that requires intellectual property rights owners to commit their valuable intellectual property in advance and without exception would undoubtedly discourage participation in the W3C.
To balance these conflicting interests, Apple believes that W3C should
promulgate only royalty-free standards, but should permit individual
members to identify and exclude specific patents that they are not
willing to license on a royalty-free basis. To accomplish this, a W3C
member would be required to disclose and license to any practitioner
all essential patents of a W3C standard. To exclude a patent from this
royalty-free license, a W3C member could, on a case-by-case basis,
notify a particular working group that it has patent rights that it
believes are essential to that working groups recommendation,
and that it is unwilling to license on a royalty-free basis. The
working group must then steer its recommendation clear of any known
unavailable patent rights. If this cannot be accomplished, that
working group might need to cease standardization activities in its
particular area. This opt-out mechanism would allow an entity to
preserve its intellectual property rights, but only by removing it
from the realm of open Web standards. In order to proliferate
royalty-free Web standards, a members obligation to license
essential patents could be conditioned on the grant of a reciprocal
royalty-free license by any practitioner.
While the current draft patent policy does state a preference for royalty-free standards, the ready availability of a RAND option presents too easy an alternative for owners of intellectual property who may seek to use the standardization process to control access to fundamental Web standards. A mandatory royalty-free requirement for all adopted standards will avoid this result.