[Draft] IPR Policies for New Standards Proposal
Status of this Document
This is the IPR portion of the the new standards task force proposal. This proposal provides a funtional description of an "IPR Progression" so that Community Group participants have IPR protection, and facilitates the transition to a future Working Group. This is not a draft legal agreement; more work will be required to turn this proposal into actual legal agreements.
Although the Editor has discussed this document within the PSIG, this is not a PSIG document, nor has the PSIG expressed any endorsement of it.
The policy involves two stages of commitments over a Community Group specification designed to satisfy a set of policy goals. The commitments are:
General notes on commitments:
- Community Groups (unlike Working Groups) do not have charters.
Working Group charters set expectations for the scope of licensing
commitments in that group. Community Group participant commitments
are scoped by what is in a specification. (As is the case with the W3C Patent Policy, the expectation is that the commitment is only over the normative portions of the specification and does not apply to features included by reference.)
- In a Working Group, all participants make a commitment for any deliverable of the group (roughly speaking). In a Community Group, a participant may make different patent commitments for different specifications published by the same Community Group.
- As it does for Working Groups already, W3C will make available publicly the history of commitments over each Community Group specification.
Contributor Agreement up Front
All participants must disclose organizations with whom they have significant employement relationships (e.g., this will be recorded in their W3C accounts).
Upon joining a group, a participant signs a Contributor Agreement (CA). The individual makes a commitment on behalf of the individual's employer(s). Via the agreement, the individual asserts to having the legal authority to make the contributor commitments, and that their employer is aware of and approves their participation.
Participants may also apply (via a distinct option in the UI) with only an "individual commitment." These requests are subject to approval by the WC staff. These requests are likely to be granted in only special circumstances, such as the individual is currently unemployed, or the employer has no rights to the individual's works.
The signatory of this agreement makes the following commitments:
- A (copyright) grant to reuse text, including in derivative works.
- The signatory chooses one of the following two options:
- A (patent) grant of, after a window (e.g., of 60 days), an irrevocable non-assert regarding essential claims owned by the employers, for any contribution made by the participant. The set of granted patent claims and the scope of the permitted uses are limited to:
The grant does not extend to claims or uses in implementations beyond the specification.
- implementations of the specification, and;
- implementations of any derivative specification that subsequently advances to the W3C Recommendation track.
- Copyright-only grant. (In a community group that is not producing a specification, this is likely to be the favored lightweight option. In a community group that is producing a specification, this will serve as a red flag for participants.).
- In the interface, we will remind employees of Members that their AC Reps may prefer to make these CLA commitments. CLA commitments made by Member employees will be sent to the AC Reps in all cases (and archived).
- When an individual makes a commitment on behalf of an organization, we expect the affiliation to be public in listings of community group participants. If an individual participates "as an individual" this will also be noted.
Other Commitments on Joining
- All individuals agree to W3C's Conflict of Interest Policy. For instance, if an individual's employment status changes while participating in the Community Group, the individual must inform W3C. W3C may request that the new employers sign the CA.
Full Specification Commitment at End
At any time (and necessarily before a specification may move to the standards track), the Community Group participants may publish a stable draft and call for all Community Group participant employers to make the next level of voluntary commitment. The commitment has two aspects, one pertaining to the specification produced by the Community Group, and one pertaining to subsequent Recommendations based on the Community Group specification. The two parts are:
- an irrevocable non-assert regarding any claims owned by the Participant that are essential to implementing the Community Group specification;
- a W3C Royalty-Free License for the same claims, extended to implementations of a W3C Recommendation provided that the claims are essential to implementing the Recommendation (as they were for the Community Group Specification).
The decision to move a specification to the standards track will be influenced by, but not automatically determined by, the extent of organizational non-asserts. The W3C staff (as a whole) is responsible for informing Community Group participants when a specification has been taken up in a Working Group, and for tracking all commitments.
Notes on Disclosure Obligations
- Community Group participants do not have disclosure obligations over Community Group Specifications. The staff reserves the right to issue an explicit disclosure request to any party suspected of having knowledge of Essential Claims; se section 6.3 of the patent policy for an analogy
- Community Group participants do not have disclosure obligations over Recommendation-track documents by virtue of their participation in a Community Group.
Notes on the Exclusion of Claims from the Royalty-Free Licensing Commitment
The exclusion process defined in the W3C Patent Policy will be handled as follows when a portion of a Community Group Specification is incorporated into a Recommendation track document:
- All Community Group Participants — whether they are W3C Members or not — may exclude according to the Patent Policy.
- Community Group Participants are not required to join the relevant Working Group in order to exclude.
Notes on Promoting Reuse of Text in the Standards Process
This policy intentionally seeks to promote the reuse of Community Group specifications in future Recommendations. In exchange for providing a forum for innovation, the W3C community asks to be able to reuse community-developed specifications in a way that is also fair to Community Group Participants. Note that:
- Community Group Participants are never obligated to make an end commitment; it is always voluntary.
- Community Group Participant commitments for a Recommendation are never greater than what they are for the Community Group specification. The commitments just apply in a different context. Subsetting is explicitly permitted under this policy.
- Community Group Participants may exclude essential claims from the Royalty-Free Licensing commitment during the Recommendation track process.
This part of the policy resembles the licensing commitments for W3C Members Submissions with some differences:
- essential claims are limited to what they were in original specification, and
- exclusion is possible even without joining a group.
Note: In a PSIG discussion there was another suggestion that patent grants extend to Recommendation track work only if all required portions of the Community Group specification remain intact in the Recommendation Track document. The goal is to only extend the patent grants if the derivative work remains interoperable with the Community Group specification. The Editor has not incorporated this suggestion because exclusion is possible during the usual Recommendation Track process. While it is indeed desirable to preserve interoperability of those features that are incorporated into a Recommendation Track document, the Editor has been unable to define feature-level compatibility in any robust manner.
Q. What are the goals of this policy?
- Lower barriers to participation. However, because organizational commitments are important to adoption and to the working environment, seek organizational commitments early while making them lightweight.
- Balance the needs of implementers with those of IPR holders.
- Require transparency and allow the community to progress based on the extent of available commitments.
- Seek IPR protection over Community Group reports; the value of the standards track will be based on other factors such as broader review and acceptance and not on the RF licensing
- Promote the reuse of Community Group specifications in Working Groups, finding a balance between commitments carrying over into the standards track and participant comfort with patent grants extending for limited reuse in future contexts.
Q. Is there an existing license to implement this policy?
The OWF agreements provide a useful starting point. Some modifications are likely for the Recommendation-track grants; more evaluation is required.
Q. Won't this approach allow people to work on a spec only to have their effort undermined if a Participant makes no end commitment?
Yes. That will be true, by definition, of any approach that allows people to make lightweight commitments when work is immature, and to solidify them (or not) later. Thus, we cannot prevent it and also satisfy the community's demand for lightweight commitments up front. Transparency will help the community manage situations where organizations choose not to make commitments.
Note also that commitments over contributions are irrevocable (after 60 days), adding some additional protection.
Q. Did you consider other progression approaches?
Yes. The following ideas were not taken up:
- First individuals make commitments, then organizations. Rationale:
- Individuals don't own IPR so these commitments add no value or protection.
- Lack of organizational investment up front may dissuade other organizations from participating.
- Organizations may still choose to "walk away" at the end of the development of a specification, but they may be less likely to do so having made (public) commitments up front.
- Initially, participant commitments only extend to other participants. Later they extend to everyone. Rationale: We do not want to discourage implementation, and there are likely to be many more developers than Community Group participants.
- Automatic conversion of scope from "my contribution" to "the entire specification" after some well-defined time period. [This wasn't discussed much.]
Notes and todos
- How visible do affiliations need to be? If you register as representative, show that. If person is employed but that relationship is irrelevant, record that relationship but not display on an ongoing basis.
- For W3C Members, get AC reps to sign up.
- We will archive
contributions (e.g., on a mailing list). However, I don't expect to display at all times the current state of all individual contributions. Instead, if the need ever arises, people will be able to consult the archive. My current expectation is that by default communications on the mailing list (or other discussion mechanism) will be considered contributions unless otherwise noted.
- I do expect to display the current state of "full text commitments" as we do for the w3c patent policy.
- We will need to say more about reciprocity and defensive suspension provisions in the non-asserts (as exist in the W3C RF License requirements).
Ian Jacobs, working with David Rudin and Helene Workman.
Questions? Write Ian Jacobs at
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