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Created: November 15, 2002.
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W3C Patent Policy Working Group Issues Last Call Royalty-Free Patent Policy Working Draft.

The W3C has released a last call working draft for the Patent Policy Working Group Royalty-Free Patent Policy. The draft policy "governs the handling of patents in the process of producing and implementing W3C Recommendations." Comments from W3C members and the public are invited during the Last Call review period, which ends on 31-December-2002. From the announcement: "The primary goal of the W3C Patent Policy Working Draft is to enable W3C Recommendations to be implemented on a royalty-free basis, and to encourage disclosure by both W3C Members and others when they are aware of patents -- their own or others -- that may be essential to the implementation of W3C Recommendations. In simple terms, all who participate in the development of a W3C Recommendation must agree to license essential claims (patents that block interoperability) on a royalty-free (RF) basis. Patent disclosures are required for W3C Working Group participants and anyone else who sees the technical drafts and is aware of patents that may be essential. The Working Group has developed a process for resolving disputes in the event patent claims are identified that are not available royalty-free. Options including designing around the patents, investigating the validity of the patents, or transitioning the work to another organization that is willing to produce RAND (reasonable and non-discriminatory terms) standards. The Policy does not require giving up one's entire patent portfolio; it concerns only those patent claims that are essential to implement a standard that one participates in developing at W3C. W3C is clear in aiming to solve a specific problem -- to remove the threat of blocking patents on key components of Web infrastructure."

Bibliographic information: Patent Policy Working Group Royalty-Free Patent Policy. W3C Working Draft 14-November-2002. Edited by Daniel J. Weitzner (W3C/MIT). Version URL: Latest version URL: Previous version URL: "The W3C Royalty-Free Patent Policy governs the handling of patents in the process of producing Web standards. The goal of this policy is to assure that Recommendations produced under this policy can be implemented on a royalty-free basis."

The revised patent policy describes: "(1) licensing goals for W3C Recommendations; (2) licensing obligations that Working Group participants will undertake as a condition of Working Group membership, along with means of excluding specific patents from those obligations; (3) the definition of a W3C Royalty-Free license; (4) disclosure rules for W3C Members; (5) an exception handling process for situations in which the Royalty-Free status of a specification comes under question."

From the text of the W3C annnouncement: "Last Call Draft Makes Commitment to Royalty-Free W3C Results. In previous drafts, the Patent Policy Working Group wrestled with issues regarding both royalty-free and other technologies being incorporated into W3C Recommendations. With this draft, the Working Group explicitly proposes the following: (1) RF Recommendations only are allowed; (2) All participants must make up-front commitments to RF licenses for Recommendations they participate in developing. (3) The W3C Patent Policy draft allows participants to retain defensive use of their patents; the RF licensing only applies to technologies essential for implementing the W3C Specification. The current draft is considerably less complicated than previous versions. The Working Group removed special rules for contributors. Further, with the elimination of the RAND track, there's no possibility of switching a design effort in the middle from a RF to a RAND group."

Excerpts from the 2002-11-14 Working Draft [see the full context]:

Licensing Goals for W3C Recommendations: "In order to promote the widest adoption of Web standards, W3C seeks to issue Recommendations that can be implemented on a Royalty-Free (RF) basis. Under this policy, W3C will not approve a Recommendation if it is aware that Essential Claims exist which are not available on Royalty-Free terms. To this end, Working Group charters will include W3C RF licensing requirements that specifications produced by the Working Group will be implementable on an RF basis, to the best ability of the Working Group and the Consortium."

Disclosure: "Disclosure is required when an Advisory Committee representative (AC rep), or any other party in a Member organization who received the disclosure request, has actual knowledge of likely Essential Claims with respect to a specification. Anyone who received a disclosure request in a Member organization and who has such knowledge must inform that AC rep. Where disclosure is required, the AC rep will do so."

Exception Handling: "In the event a patent has been disclosed that may be essential, but is not available under W3C RF licensing requirements, a Patent Advisory Group (PAG) will be launched to resolve the conflict. The PAG is an ad-hoc group constituted specifically in relation to the Working Group with the conflict. A PAG may also be formed without such a disclosure if a PAG could help avoid anticipated patent problems. During the time that the PAG is operating, the Working Group may continue its technical work within the bounds of its charter. A PAG may also be convened in the event Essential Claims are discovered after a Recommendation is issued. In this case the PAG will be open to any interested Member, though the PAG may choose to meet without the holder of the Essential Claims in question."

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