The World Wide Web Consortium has announced the creation of a new W3C Patents and Standards Interest Group as part of its re-chartered Patent Policy Activity. The Patents and Standards Interest Group (PSIG) is the successor to the W3C Patent Policy Working Group (PPWG) which was active during the formation of the W3C Royalty-Free Patent Policy.
The goal of the Patent Policy Activity is to "enable W3C to implement and successfully operate the W3C Patent Policy which was put into place in February 2004." This Patent Policy "governs the handling of patents in the process of producing Web standards. The goal of the policy is to assure that Recommendations produced under this policy can be implemented on a Royalty-Free (RF) basis."
While the work of developing and implementing the W3C Patent Policy is complete, the W3C Team believes "it is important that the W3C community have an organized way to monitor application of the Policy as well as remain informed about relevant development in the legal and standards environment."
Background to the formation of the W3C PSIG is provided in the Charter, which activates the Interest Group through 1-December-2007: "In May 2003, the W3C Director, on the advice of the W3C Membership, approved the W3C Patent Policy as the governing document for patent matters in W3C Recommendations. The policy affirms and strengthens the basic business model that has driven innovation on the Web from its inception. The availability of an interoperable, unencumbered Web infrastructure provides an expanding foundation for innovative applications, profitable commerce, and the free flow of information and ideas, on a commercial and non-commercial basis."
The W3C Patent Policy Working Group "which developed the policy over a more than three year period completed its work by assisting the W3C Team with the implementation of the policy. This Patents and Standards Interest Group is [now] formed in order to provide an ongoing forum for discussion of general issues regarding implementation of the policy and to exchange views of other related matters of importance."
The PSIG "issues neither Recommendations nor other binding policy documents. The PSIG may be called upon to offer advice on patent policy matters, but not on issues related to specific W3C Recommendations or individual Working Groups." It is scoped to "exchange views and flag issues regarding the W3C Patent Policy [and] may recommend to the W3C Team and Advisory Committee any actions that it feels are worthy of consideration."
The W3C Patents and Standards Interest Group (PSIG) and Patent Policy Activity are organized as part of the W3C Technology and Society Domain, which provides "technical building blocks that help address critical public policy issues on the Web." The W3C T&S Mission Statement declares that "technical building blocks available across the Web are a necessary, though not by themselves sufficient to ensure that the Web is able to respond to fundamental public policy challenges such as privacy, security, and intellectual property questions. Policy-aware Web technology is essential in order to help users preserve control over complex policy choices in the global, trans-jurisdictional legal environment of the Web. At the same time, technology design alone cannot and should not be offered as substitutes for basic public policy decisions that must be made in the relevant political fora around the world."
About the W3C Patent Policy
The W3C Patent Policy describes: (1) licensing goals for W3C Recommendations; (2) licensing obligations that Working Group participants will undertake as a condition of Working Group participation, 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; (6) definition of Essential Claims..."
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. Subject to the conditions of 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, [W3C] Working Group charters will include a reference to this policy and a requirement 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..."
W3C RF Licensing Requirements for All Working Group Participants: "As a condition of participating in a Working Group, each participant (W3C Members, W3C Team members, invited experts, and members of the public) shall agree to make available under W3C RF licensing requirements any Essential Claims related to the work of that particular Working Group. This requirement includes Essential Claims that the participant owns and any that the participant has the right to license without obligation of payment or other consideration to an unrelated third party. With the exception of the provisions of section 4 [...], W3C RF licensing obligations made concerning the work the particular Working Group and described in this policy are binding on participants for the life of the patents in question and encumber the patents containing Essential Claims, regardless of changes in participation status or W3C Membership..."
How the Policy Promotes Implementation: "The policy promotes the widespread implementation of W3C Recommendations first by making the W3C Royalty-Free License requirements clear. To qualify under the policy, a license must satisfy the following requirements...:
- The license must be available to all implementers and users whether or not they are W3C Members
- The license may be limited to implementations of the Recommendation
- The license may require a royalty-free 'grant back' or reciprocal licenses either to the original patent holder or to all other implementers
- The license must not charge a fee or royalty
- The license may be suspended if the licensee sues the licensor
- The license must not impose any other material conditions, such as requirements to use other technologies, etc..." [from the Summary]
About the W3C Technology and Society Domain and PPWG
From the Technology and Society Domain web page:
"Working at the intersection of Web technology and public policy, the Technology and Society Domain's goal is to augment existing Web infrastructure with building blocks that assist in addressing critical public policy issues affecting the Web.
Technical building blocks available across the Web are a necessary, though not by themselves sufficient to ensure that the Web is able to respond to fundamental public policy challenges such as privacy, security, and intellectual property questions. Policy-aware Web technology is essential in order to help users preserve control over complex policy choices in the global, trans-jurisdictional legal environment of the Web. At the same time, technology design alone cannot and should not be offered as substitutes for basic public policy decisions that must be made in the relevant political fora around the world...
The Patent Policy Working Group [was] chartered to advise W3C on the means to address the growing challenge that patent claims pose to the development of open standards for the Web. Web technology has developed over the last decade through an unprecedented burst of entrepreneurial energy and global cooperation. Both the competitive forces which have lead to innovative technology, and the cooperative spirit which has produced global interoperability standards at an extremely rapid pace have occurred, until very recently, in a market environment without any significant intellectual property licensing requirements. In contrast to other network industries such as telecommunications or transportation, innovation has occurred without recourse to patent rights to protect investment in research and development. The second decade of the Web has already demonstrated that patents will be a factor in the ongoing development of the World Wide Web infrastructure. In an number of cases of the last few years, patent claims have raised questions about the ability to implement W3C Recommendations..."
- W3C Patent Policy Activity
- W3C Patents and Standards Interest Group (PSIG)
- Patents and Standards Interest Group (PSIG) Charter
- Patent Policy Activity Proposal (2004)
- W3C Patent Policy. 5-February-2004
- Overview and Summary of W3C Patent Policy
- Business Benefits of the W3C Patent Policy
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the W3C Patent Policy
- Mail archives for 'www-patentpolicy-comment'
- Patent Policy Working Group. The Patents and Standards Interest Group (PSIG) is the successor to the W3C Patent Policy Working Group.
- W3C Technology and Society Domain
- "W3C Approves Patent Policy Supporting Development of Royalty-Free Web Standards." News story 2003-05-20.
- "Patents and Open Standards" - Main reference document.