The W3C has issued Patent Policy Working Group Royalty-Free Patent Policy as a W3C Proposed Policy and invites public comment through 30-April-2003. "The W3C Director's decision on the final policy, which takes into account the full range of feedback, is expected in May 2003." 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 (RF) basis. The Patent Policy Working Group (PPWG) is part of the W3C Technology and Society Domain; its mission is to advise W3C on the means to address the growing challenge that patent claims pose to the development of open standards for the Web." Paraphrasing the key terms of the Proposed Policy: those participating in the development of a W3C Recommendation must agree to license essential claims (viz., patents that block interoperability) on a royalty-free (RF) basis. WG participants may exclude specifically identified patent claims from the Royalty-Free commitment; these exclusions are required shortly after publication of the first public Working Draft, reducing the likelihood that surprise patents will jeopardize collective Working Group efforts. Patent disclosures regarding essential patents are required from W3C Members and requested of anyone else. Patent claims not available with terms consistent with the W3C Patent Policy will be handled by a dispute resolution process.
Patent Policy Working Group Royalty-Free Patent Policy. W3C Proposed Policy 19-March-2003. Edited by Daniel J. Weitzner (W3C/MIT). Version URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/2003/WD-patent-policy-20030319/. Latest version URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/patent-policy/. Previous version URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/2002/WD-patent-policy-20021114/.
"This is the proposed W3C Patent Policy produced by the Patent Policy Working Group (PPWG) for review by the W3C Advisory Committee and interested members of the public. The Patent Policy Working Group has agreed to circulate this Working Draft as the final proposed patent policy having resolved all issues raised since the publication of their 14-November-2002 Last Call Working Draft... At the close of the Advisory Committee review period, the Director will issue a final policy, taking into account comments from the W3C Membership and the public. During the development of the Patent Policy we have used the W3C Recommendation track to help solicit Member and public comment. As the deliverable of the PPWG satisfied by this document is a policy and not a technical report, the result of the Director's decision on this document will be a policy akin to the W3C Process Document, not a Recommendation... There are no patent disclosures relevant to this document... This is a public W3C Working Draft. It is a draft document and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to use W3C Working Drafts as reference material or to cite them as other than 'work in progress'..."
Overview of the W3C Proposed Policy
[Excerpts from the W3C announcement of2003-03-19:]
"This policy, put together by a diverse and knowledgeable group, furthers the spirit of innovation on which the Web has thrived," explained Daniel J. Weitzner, Patent Policy Working Group Chair and Leader of the W3C's Technology and Society Domain. "Thousands of hours have gone into the development of this policy, including participation of W3C Members and invited experts from the Open Source/Free Software community. Our work has also benefitted greatly from the voluntary efforts of members of the public who read and responded to the various drafts."
After Three Years of Work, Diverse Parties Create a Common Path The W3C Patent Policy Working Group was launched in October 1999, after a patent claim against P3P derailed the development of that technology. Based on a legal analysis of the claim, the threat was removed, and work successfully resumed. This and other experiences raised awareness of patent issues in the W3C Membership. The Working Group was created in part to make more concrete how W3C Working Groups could successfully work on Web standards in the evolving patent climate.
"Developing policy in this complex and often contentious area is difficult," continued Weitzner. "I commend all of the participants in the Working Group for working hard to build consensus around this proposal. No single group -- patent holders, open source developers or users -- got everything it wanted. But with this final draft, the Working Group believes it has found a common, workable path that will encourage the widespread adoption of W3C standards across a wide range of business models, from proprietary to open source."
Participants in the Working Group include: AOL; Apple Computer; AT&T; Avaya; Daisy Consortium; Hewlett-Packard Company; IBM; ILOG S.A.; Intel; Lexmark; Microsoft Corporation; MITRE; Motorola; Nokia; Nortel Networks; The Open Group; Oracle Corporation; Philips Electronics; Reuters, Ltd.; Sun Microsystems; Xerox Corporation; as well as invited experts from the Free Software Foundation, Software in the Public Interest, and the Open Source Initiative.
The primary goal of the W3C Patent Policy Working Draft is to enable W3C Recommendations to be implemented on a royalty-free basis. The policy also requires patent disclosure by W3C Members when they are aware of patents -- their own or others -- that may be essential to the implementation of W3C Recommendations.
In simple terms, the Patent Policy provides that:
- All who participate in the development of a W3C Recommendation must agree to license essential claims (that is, patents that block interoperability) on a royalty-free (RF) basis.
- Under certain circumstances, working group participants may exclude specifically identified patent claims from the Royalty-Free commitment. These exclusions are required shortly after publication of the first public Working Draft, reducing the likelihood that surprise patents will jeopardize collective Working Group efforts.
- Patent disclosures are required from W3C Members and requested of anyone else who sees the technical drafts and has actual knowledge of patents that may be essential.
- Patent claims not available with terms consistent with the W3C Patent Policy will be handled by a dispute resolution process.
- Announcement 2003-03-19: "World Wide Web Consortium Issues Draft of Patent Policy. Final Public and Member Reviews of Royalty-Free Draft to Start Today."
- Patent Policy Working Group Royalty-Free Patent Policy. W3C Proposed Policy 19-March-2003.
- "Overview and Summary of W3C Royalty-Free Patent Policy." Edited by Daniel J. Weitzner (W3C/MIT) and Ian Jacobs (W3C). 19-March-2003. Non-normative
- Patent Policy Working Group Royalty-Free Patent Policy. 'Last Call' W3C Working Draft 14-November-2002.
- Patent Policy Working Group November 2002 Last Call Issues List
- Public comment: send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. This list is publicly archived.
- W3C Member comment: send email to the public list (above) or to email@example.com.
- Patent Policy Working Group Public Home Page
- "Patents and Open Standards" - Main reference page.