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Introducing the W3C Patent Policy

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Introducing the W3C Patent Policy

Daniel J. Weitzner
Chair, W3C Patents and Standards Interest Group


Motivation -- History

1993: CERN contributions Web infrastructure to the public domain

1994-1998: Community norms avoids patent licensing issues

1998-1999: Patent holdup of 5 W3C specifications: P3P, XLink, XPointer, VoiceXML, CSS

October 1999: Patent policy development begins

Motivation - The Business Model of the Web

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

Patent Policy in a Nutshell

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


Royalty-Free Licensing Commitment - Social Contract Among Specification Designers and Developers

W3C Royalty-Free Licensing Requirements

Requirements for a license, (not license text itself):

  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
  11. Interim license


Exception Handling - Patent Advisory Groups

Purpose: address variances from RF licensing goal

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


  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 The Recommendation (if it has already been issued) should be rescinded.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.

Patent Policy Implementation Process

Steps between here and actual implementation:

Expected actual use beginning October/November 2003

Policy Development Process

Jean-François Abramatic (W3C), Chuck Adams (IBM), Angela Anderson (Nortel), Anders Arvidsson (Nokia), Martin Ashton (Reuters, Ltd.), Carl Cargill (Sun Microsystems), Wanda Cox (Apple Computer), W. Mike Deese (Microsoft), Mark DeLuca (Cozen O'Connor for Microsoft), Don Deutsch (Oracle), Tom Frost (AT&T), Michael Gelblum (Oracle), Mari Georges (ILOG S.A.), Lisa Goldman (Sun Microsystems), Eduardo Gutentag (Sun Microsystems), Toon Groenendaal (Philips Electronics), Michele Herman (Microsoft), Richard J. Holleman (IBM), Ian Jacobs (W3C), Glen Johnson (Nortel Networks), Jerry Kellenbenz (Apple Computer), George Kerscher (Daisy Consortium), Alan Kotok (W3C), Gerry Lane (IBM), Arnaud Le Hors (IBM), Susan Lesch (W3C, Team Contact), Roger Martin (AOL), Bede McCall (MITRE), Catherine McCarthy (Sun Microsystems), Lloyd McIntyre (Xerox), Earl Nied (Intel), Steve Nunn (The Open Group), Scott K. Peterson (Hewlett-Packard), Tony E. Piotrowski (Philips Electronics), Gene Potkay (Avaya), Chuck Powers (Motorola), Barry Rein (Pennie & Edmonds for W3C), Gib Ritenour (Nortel Networks), Michael Schallop (then Sun Microsystems), Kevin Smith (Nortel Networks), George Tacticos (IBM), David Turner (Microsoft), Daniel Weitzner (W3C, Working Group Chair), George Willingmyre (GTW Associates), Helene Plotka Workman (Apple Computer), Don Wright (Lexmark), Joe Young (Xerox), and Tom Zell (Xerox). Invited experts Eben Moglen (Free Software Foundation), Bruce Perens (Software in the Public Interest), and Larry Rosen ( for Open Source Initiative) participated and contributed fully.

Patent Policy Implementation Experience -- Unremarkable

(as of July 2007)

Comparison of Policy Choices

Issue W3C OASIS Impact
1) License mode choices 1 3 flexibility/timeliness tradeoff
2) Scope of license commitment Recommendation TC charter certainty for implementers vs. members
3) Scope of defensive suspension all W3C RECs spec-by-spec architectural integrity


W3C Patent Policy: (5 February 2004)

Patent Policy Summary:

Business Benefits of the Patent Policy:

Patent Policy FAQ:

Patents and Standards Interest Group: