W3C W3C Patent Policy Guide

Questions and answers about W3C's Current Patent Practice

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Frequently Asked Questions | Other Questions | Questions Not Yet Answered
Current Patent Practice Note | W3C Patent Policy Working Group Public Home Page


This page is a public guide to W3C patent policy. Today, W3C's patent policy is described in the Current Patent Practice (CPP) W3C Note. Material available on this page, including frequently asked questions about the policy should help participants in W3C Working Groups to understand how our patent policy works.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

This FAQ provides answers to questions about the Current Patent Practice (CPP) W3C Note. While the FAQ is not designed to serve as a substitute for the Note itself, these questions should help clarify the manner in which W3C handles patent issues on a day-to-day basis.

Significance of the Royalty-Free Requirement

Q. What is the purpose of declaring a Working Group "Royalty-Free" (RF)?

A. This establishes a requirement that the Working Group produce a specification that can be implemented without paying royalties, based on the information available at the time the specification is declared a Recommendation.

Q. Which Working Groups are run according to the Current Patent Practice?

A. Only those Working Groups whose charters explicitly declare that the Working Group is governed by the CPP will be run under these patent procedures. The CPP is meant to cover all new Working Groups chartered after 24 January 2002. In addition, Working Groups re-chartered after that date will generally be covered by the CPP, unless the Working Group's specification is already at or past the Candidate Recommendation maturity level.

Q. What about groups whose charters are extended after the CPP was published but were originally chartered under other patent rules?

A. We plan to transition all current Working Groups to the CPP as their charters expire. With one exception, any WG whose charter expires from now on will not have the simple extension of time that has normally been done. Instead, the group will be re-chartered to include reference to the CPP. This will require an Advisory Committee Review of the revised charter. Where necessary, charters may be extended in time for up to three months to allow this AC Review to take place. The only exception to this rechartering requirement is that groups which have already issued a Candidate Recommendation specification are eligible for simple extensions, without addition of the CPP to their charters.

Q. What patent rules govern Working Groups whose charters do NOT indicate that the WG is run according to the Current Patent Practices?

A. Working Groups whose charters do not make specific reference to the CPP are operated according to the IPR Procedures in the W3C Process Document and by any IPR rules specified in the Working Group charter. WGs operating under these older rules run the risk of the various uncertainties that served as impetus to create a new Patent Policy and the Current Patent Practice document. Therefore, we hope that all WGs will shortly transition to the CPP, and later a final Patent Policy.

Q. Will the CPP be added to charters where the groups do not produce Recommendations?

A. No. The CPP is only applicable to groups that produce Recommendations so the CPP will not be added to charters of groups that have no Recommendations in their charter.

Obligations for Participants in W3C Working Groups Operating Under the Current Patent Practice

Q. What is the condition for joining a RF Working Group?

A. As has always been the case with W3C Working Groups, participants who join an RF Working Group must have a call for participation (CFP) completed by their Advisory Committee representative. This CFP will contain a patent disclosure question which must be answered. However, the disclosure need not be complete at the time that the participant joins. All disclosures must be complete, however, by the time the specification enters Candidate Recommendation, or a Patent Advisory Group (PAG) will be launched.

Disclosure Obligations

See Section 3 [Disclosure] of the CPP.

Q. What patent disclosure is required under the CPP?

A. W3C Members with "personal knowledge" of patents that may be essential to the specification in question must disclose the patent number associated with the patent. This includes both Working Group participants as well as any other W3C Members who have such knowledge.

Q. Is a patent search required?

A. No. The disclosure required is based on knowledge that the party has so no active search is required.

Q. Does a statement that a Member "may have patents covering the specification," without disclosing specific patent numbers satisfy the disclosure obligation?

A. No.

Q. When should disclosures be made? Can a participant wait until the very end of the Working Group process to disclose?

A. Disclosures should be made as soon as the participant has the relevant knowledge about a patent which might be essential to the specification. If the participant has the relevant knowledge before the end of the group's work, then the participant should not wait to disclose. This will help the Working Group to address any issues that may arise as a result of the disclosure without undue delay.

Q. What does is mean that disclosures are to be made public?

A. Each time a working group publishes a public working draft (including Last Call, Candidate Recommendation, Proposed Recommendation, and Recommendation documents), all patent disclosures made to date must be made publicly available.

Q. How does a WG satisfy the requirement to make disclosures public?

A. Each public working draft should contain a link to a patent disclosure page. That page should contain summaries of the patent disclosures and licensing commitments made by each participant along with the full text of the disclosures originally made. The disclosure page should include both disclosures made by WG participants, as well as any third party patents that are believed to be possibly essential to the specification.

Q. Suppose two (or more) Working Groups are cooperating on the development of a single specification?

A. Each specification should have one disclosure page, regardless of the source of the disclosures. That fact that the disclosures come from more than one WG should be noted, but does change the basic goal of having a one-to-one mapping between a specification and relevant disclosures. Under the CPP, each disclosure made is expected to be associated with a 'named specification.'

Patent Advisory Groups (PAGs)

See Section 4 [PAG] of the CPP.

Q. What is a PAG?

A. A PAG is an ad-hoc group which may be formed to help resolve patent-related problems arising in a Working Group. The PAG is a group made up of the Advisory Committee representatives from the organizations of each participant represented on the Working Group in question.

Q. What triggers the launch of a PAG?

A. A PAG will be launched when either:

Q. What is an "incomplete" patent disclosure?

A. A Working Group participant's patent disclosure will be considered incomplete if it fails to answer one of the following statements in the affirmative:

  1. "To the best of my personal knowledge, my organization has no essential patents."
  2. "My organization has patents that may be essential.", along with an enumeration of the patent numbers.
  3. "My organization may or may not have essential patents. If we do, we agree to license them on Royalty-Free terms to all implementers, whether or not they are Members of W3C." This licensing commitment may also be replaced with specific, Royalty-Free licensing terms.

Q. When will a PAG be convened, if it is required?

A. The Team contact may convene a PAG at any time if none of the conditions in the previous question are satisfied for any participant. If it is required, then a PAG should be convened by the time the specification enters Candidate Recommendation.

Q. If a Working Group participant makes a statement that the participant "may have patents covering the specification," without disclosing specific patent numbers, must a PAG be launched immediately?

A. No. However, incomplete statements such as these must be completed by the time the specification goes to Candidate Recommendation, otherwise a PAG will be required.

Q.What happens if a participant makes a patent license commitment that offers to license on Royalty-Free terms following the CPP, but attaches modifications to the licensing conditions?

A. If a WG participant makes a RF commitment following the requirements of the CPP but adds additional terms, then the Team will decide whether or not those additional terms require a PAG to be called. The Team will inform the participant as soon as it has been determined that the additional terms could trigger a PAG if not modified or removed. A final decision about calling a PAG will be made by the time the specification enters Candidate Recommendation, as explained in this FAQ.

Relationship Between Current Patent Practice and W3C's Patent Policy Under Development

Q. What is the relationship between the CPP and the patent policy now under development by the W3C Patent Policy Working Group?

A. W3C is in the process of developing a comprehensive patent policy. The current Working Draft is still in progress at the Patent Policy Working Group and has not been approved by the Consortium. Once the patent policy is adopted, it will replace the CPP. We expect that the transition from the CPP to the new policy will occur gradually; new Activities will be governed by the new policy while Activities already operating under the CPP rules are expected to remain under the policy under which they began.

Other Questions


Questions Not Yet Answered


Getting Questions Answered

Questions about patent issues arising in a particular Working Group should be sent to the Team contact or Domain Leader responsible for the Working Group. General questions or comments should be sent to the public patent policy comment list www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org (archive).

Daniel J .Weitzner <djweitzner@w3.org>, Chair, W3C Patent Policy Working Group

Last revised by Weitzner $Date: 2002/10/09 16:45:03 $