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The W3C and its Patent Policy

Steve Bratt, Chief Operating Officer
World Wide Web Consortium

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The W3C and its Patent Policy


Leading the Web to its Full Potential

Steve Bratt
Chief Operating Officer

Slides: http://www.w3.org/2005/Talks/1011-sb-W3C-PatPol/
11 October 2005


W3C Overview


Mission: Leading the Web to its Full Potential

Founded by Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee in 1994, W3C is:

Graph of Globe
  • From a Web of Documents ...
  • ... toward a Web:
    • of Data and Services
    • on Everything
    • for Everyone
    • ... that is Interoperable, Trustworthy, Evolving with time ...

W3C logo

(Benefits / New "At a Glance" brochure)

International Web Standards Organization

W3C's expanding base of international operations and participation

W3C Engineers the Foundation of the Web

Over 80 Web Standards (Recommendations) developed to date (list/ svg-by-yr/ translations)

Current work done in 50+ Working, Interest and Coordination Groups

W3C technology stack

Developing Standards at W3C

W3C Patent Policy


Early Web Experience

Web "business model" built upon open, free (explicit or implicit), cool foundation

As the Web Grew ...

Increasing number of patent suits in US over time (bar graph)
  • Original W3C Process (e.g., 1999 version) set IPR policy
    • Encouraged standards unencumbered by IPR; required disclosure
  • However, Process became increasingly inadequate
    • Fierce competition to exploit the commercial potential of the Web
    • Increasing number of patents asserted on foundational Web technologies
      • Some holders (including some standards developers) sought royalties, other arrangements
    • Increasing level of concern, confusion, legal actions, delays
      • @ W3C: P3P/Intermind (1999) [1], [2]; XLink; XPointer; CSS; HTML/Eolas (2003+) [1]
  • Perceived risk to the Web business model, e.g. ...
    • to the continued development of open Web standards
    • to the continued growth of the Web as a medium for communication
    • to the continued growth of the Web as an instrument of commerce

W3C Patent Policy History

Patent Policy in a Nutshell

Goal: Produce Recommendations implementable on Royalty-Free basis and allow technical work to with minimal interruption



W3C Patent Policy Affirms Web Business Model

"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."

--Director's Decision, 20 May 2003

Royalty-Free Licensing Commitment

W3C Royalty-Free Licensing Requirements

Requirements for an RF license:

  1. available to all
  2. all Essential Claims 'owned or controlled'
  3. field of use limitation
  4. reciprocity
  5. no fees
  6. defensive suspension
  7. no other conditions
  8. implementer may refuse
  9. license for life of Recommendation
  10. Recommendation deprecation



Working Group participants may exclude specifically identified and disclosed Essential Claims from the overall W3C RF licensing requirements

Exception Handling

Purpose of the provisions: Address variances from RF licensing goal

Trigger: Disclosure of essential claim not available according to W3C RF licensing requirement.

Response: Convene a Patent Advisory Group (PAG)

PAG may conclude that:

  1. The initial concern has been resolved, enabling the Working Group to continue.
  2. The Working Group should be instructed to consider designing around the identified claims.
  3. The Team should seek further information and evaluation..
  4. The Working Group should be terminated.
  5. The Recommendation (if it has already been issued) should be rescinded.
  6. Alternative licensing terms should be considered.

Implementing the Patent Policy

Patent Policy Experience

Patents & Standards / Values & Costs

Think of values and costs throughout a product cycle (research, standardization, productization)



Extra Slides

Value of W3C Membership

How to join W3C

W3C Groups and Web Standards

80+ Standards to date(list/ svg-by-yr/ translations)
Current work done in
~50 Working, Interest and Coordination Groups

W3C Groups Org chart

Selected Technology Areas


Document Technologies

Web on Everything

Mobile Web Initiative

Web of Data and Services

Web Services

Web Services stack (Philippe Le Hgaret)

Semantic Web

Semantic Web Stack (Tim Berners-Lee)

Other Work Expand Web Use and Safety

Thank you