[Draft] W3C Community Groups and Business Groups

Status: Obsolete. See the Live system and in particular the About pages.

This is the "formal" process based on the 2010 proposal for making W3C the place for new standards. There is also a one-page summary of the programs.

Deployment of the programs will include a new Web site with additional materials to help groups work effectively. Infrastructure requirements are addressed in other documentation.

Also On This Page → 


Since the early days of the Consortium, the number of stakeholders of the Web has grown significantly, powerful collaboration tools have gone mainstream, and expectations about standards themselves have evolved. W3C's "classic" process and Membership models meet the needs of some stakeholders, but not all. W3C seeks to offer larger numbers of developers, designers, and others passionate about the Web the means to build communities. This proposal defines W3C Community Groups, where anyone may develop specifications, hold discussions, develop tests, and so on, with no participation fee. Community groups emphasize individual innovation and allow an easy way for innovation from individuals to move to the "classic" W3C standards process, which emphasizes broad consensus-building and implementation among global stakeholders. Community Groups develop specifications under a Community Group Agreement designed to strike a balance between ease of participation and safety for implementers and patent holders. The new offering complements the classic process and patent policy; it does not replace it. Read more about the objectives of this project below.

This document also defines Business Groups to increase participation by organizations who may not be primarily motivated by participation in W3C standards development but instead are interested in the application of W3C technologies to business problems, and in providing high-bandwidth input to the standards process. Business Group participants who are not W3C Members pay for staff resources, but the fee for participating in Business Groups is less than W3C Membership (and grants fewer benefits).

All of these programs are managed by a Community Development Lead, chosen by W3C management. The roles of the Community Development Lead are described throughout this document.

The diagram below illustrates some (but not all) ways to provide input to a Working Group: through Community Group Reports, Business Group Reports, Member Submissions, and Workshop Reports.

Diagram showing multiple potential inputs to a Working Group: Community Group report, Incubator Group report, Workshop report, and Member Submission

W3C Forum

The W3C Forum is a venue for discussion of Web-related topics including development of specifications. People submit material (a "Community Submission") to the Forum that they wish to be developed by a Community Group. W3C reserves the right to refuse publication of a Community Submission, for instance if the material is likely to cause offense or confusion.

Individuals who wish to participate in the W3C Forum — enter into discussion or submit proposals — must agree to the general participation policies. Participants are responsible for making clear the copyright and patent terms of their submissions.

Community Submission Publication Policies

Community Submissions must not use a style that will cause them to be confused with W3C Technical Reports. W3C may publish additional policies to govern publication of Community Submissions.

Community Groups

Community Groups are open to all with no fee. They are designed in particular to provide developers with a place to meet.

When ideas gain momentum in the W3C Forum, discussion moves to a Community Group with an identified scope. The scope explains the topic of interest and is used to promote participation. It may evolve with time. The scope has no patent licensing implications.

Creation of a Community Group

Anyone may propose the creation of a Community Group. A proposal is "complete" when:

  • It includes a name for the group (not already taken by a Community Group) and a scope description. The scope should be different than that of any other Community Group (but it may be the same, such as when two communities wish to explore two solutions to the same set of problems). Note: Initially W3C anticipates that each Community Group will publish only one specification; that policy may change with experience.
  • Five individuals support the creation of the group. The W3C Forum may be used to build this support.

Once a proposal is complete, W3C announces the creation of the group (which includes its software infrastructure). This date is called the "launch date."

The Community Development Lead does not formally approve proposals but may reject a proposal for a Community Group when the scope is likely to cause offense or confusion, or when it is abusively broad.

Joining a Community Group

Anyone may join any Community Group. Participants must agree to the participation policies. There are no participation fees.

Community Group Chair(s)

Each Community Group must have at least one Chair who is responsible for ensuring the group fulfills the requirements of this document as well as the procedures the group establishes for itself. The participants of the Group choose their Chair(s). The Chair(s) are also the primary contacts for the Community Development Lead.

Duration and Closure of a Community Group

Once a Community Group has been launched, participants may continue to work indefinitely, until the Community Development Lead closes the group; see the grounds for closure.

No less than ten business days before closing a group, the Community Development Lead must alert the participants. Once closed, no individuals may join, and discussions stop. However, W3C makes available information about closed Community Groups and archives of their communications.

Closed Community Groups are re-opened following the creation process.

Grounds for Closure of a Community Group

The Community Development Lead may close a Community Group in any of following circumstances:

  • Chair Request. The Group Chair requests that the group be closed (e.g., as the result of a group decision, or on a certain date selected in advance by the group).
  • Inactivity. The number of participants drops below 3 for an extended period, or because participant activity (e.g., as measured by communications among participants) ceases for an extended period.
  • Antitrust Issues. When, in the judgment of the Community Development Lead, Participant behavior raises antitrust concerns, including discussion of pricing or market division, activity that may might reasonably be perceived as collusion, etc.
  • Agreement Violations. When, in the judgment of the Community Development Lead, the group has committed a serious violation of this policy, for instance exceeding its scope.

The Community Development Lead and Chair should discuss the group's status before the Community Development Lead initiates closure.

Community Group Communications

Each Community Group will have both public and non-public communications mechanisms. The former are for work, the latter for administrative matters (e.g., personal information used in meeting planning).

To help Community Group participants adhere to the general communications policies, all participants (including the Chair) should help moderate discussion (for instance, to keep the group focused on relevant topics).

In order to help the community track process, each Community Group is encouraged to summarize accomplishments, barriers to progress, or other challenges from time to time.

All communications must be archived; one reason is to support the Community Group Agreement.

Communications and Contributions under the Community Group Agreement

The Community Group Agreement relies on the notion of a contribution. In deference to implementers, all communications within a Community Group are considered to be contributions. Participants that wish to exclude contributions must do so conspicuously in individual communications. Participants are not permitted to participate under the reverse terms ("nothing is a contribution unless I explicitly label it one.").

Community Group Branding

W3C will provide Community Group branding tools (e.g., logos). Any other Community Group branding (e.g., use of W3C name or logo in ways that may confuse the state of standardization, or technology-specific logo development) is subject to review and approval by the Head of W3C Marketing and Communications.

Any Community Group branding (e.g., use of W3C name or logo, technology-specific logo development) is subject to review and approval by the Head of W3C Marketing and Communications.

Community Group Decision-Making Policies

This policy does not require a particular decision-making process. However, any process adopted by the group must be fair and must not unreasonably favor or discriminate against any group participant or their employer. For instance, the group may adopt fair and reasonable criteria for accepting contributions in a specification.

W3C encourages groups to favor decisions that reflect group consensus.

Community Group Meeting Policies

A Community Group is not required to hold meetings. However, if it does, then the Chair must ensure that the following happens:

  • the meeting is announced to the group in a timely fashion so that people can schedule attendance;
  • an agenda is posted;
  • meeting minutes are published, including topics discussions and decisions.

Community Group Deliverables

Community Group deliverables may be anything, including documents, test suites, tutorials, demos, code, discussion, etc. W3C will provide infrastructure to host discussions, code, specifications, test suites, and so on. We expect that many Community Groups will work primarily on specifications, called Community Group Reports.

Deliverables are subject to the following requirements:

  • They must be publicly available.
  • The editing history of a Community Group Report must be publicly available and archived permanently.
  • They must include the name the group that published the deliverables and link to a public page about the group.
  • They must include a publication date.
  • They must be distributed under the Copryight terms of the Community Group Agreement. W3C will provide a template for including copyright information.
  • Document styles must not cause confusion about the status of the document, in particular with respect to W3C Technical Reports.
  • Final Community Group Reports must be available in English.
  • Final Community Group Reports must be published on the W3C Web site.
  • Once a Final Community Group Report has been published at a given URI, the report must not change.

W3C reserves the right to refuse publication of deliverables, for instance if the material is likely to cause offense or confusion. W3C may publish additional policies to govern Community Group deliverables. W3C will provide style guides (and style sheets) for Community Group Reports, as well as good practice suggestions.

Community Council

The Community Development Lead organizes a Community Council whose mission is:

  • to promote the program and ensure that it functions smoothly, and
  • to help the Community Development Lead fulfill the duties described in this document.

Initially the Community Development Lead selects the Council participants, with an emphasis on representation of diverse interests (public, W3C Membership, staff, other standards organizations, etc.). The Community Development Lead may develop other mechanisms for participant selection.


The Community Council works with existing groups in a variety of ways, including:

  • Education of Community Group participants about doing work at W3C. This might involve creation of documentation, videos, or other tools. It might also involve chair training or providing good practice information to chairs.
  • Education of the broader community about the work of a Community Group. This might involve communicating announcements or summaries in a newsletter.
  • Connections among groups that have shared interests. This might involve organizing joint meetings.


The Council promotes broad inclusion and participation by newcomers in a variety of ways, including:

  • Promotion of the program in online fora, at events, and in new communities.
  • Encouraging the creation of language-specific groups, international participation, and online meetings.
  • Efforts that help avoid confusion with W3C's standardization process (e.g., through videos or other materials that help explain how to do work at W3C).

Transition to W3C Standards Track

Some (but not all) Community Group Reports and Business Group Reports are expected to serve as input to a Working Group. W3C facilitates the transition from Community Group to the W3C Standards Track in a number of ways:

  • Continuity of IPR commitments. The Community Group Agreement is designed to ensure smooth transition of IPR commitments from Community Groups to Working Groups.
  • Continuity of participation. When a Working Group takes up a Community Group Report, non-Member employees may continue their participation in the Working Group for a limited duration while their employer makes the transition to Membership. The individual's employer must have fulfilled the organizational patent requirements of the Community Group Agreement.
  • Simplified charter template. If the mission of a new Working Group is simply to advance a Community Group Report to Recommendation, W3C provides a simplified charter template that is mostly boilerplate, with additional information about resources, deliverables, and milestones. Working Group charters created to standardize a Community Group Report must be reviewed by the Membership following the usual process.

Parallel Activities between a Community Group and a Working Group

A Community Group may continue to exist after a Working Group has been chartered. The Community Group may wish to start experimenting with new ideas for a technology while the Working Group builds consensus and focuses on implementation of a stable set of agreed upon features.

W3C suggests that once a Working Group has taken up a Community Group Report, the Community Group should no longer develop the same material in parallel. This has mostly to do with how the patent policies work. Working Group licensing commitments are limited to the deliverables of the Working Group, so commitments do not follow text that is taken up by other groups (Community Groups or Working Groups).

Business Groups

Business Groups are open to all (including companies, non-profits, government agencies, research institutes, individuals), but parties that are not W3C Members pay a fee to participate. That fee is less than W3C Membership and grants fewer benefits. Business Groups are designed to provide stakeholders in particular industries with a forum to develop industry-specific applications of Web technology, to create a strong liaison between a particular industry and the Web community, or to solve an industry-specific issue without an initial assumption of which Web technologies apply.

Business Group policies are the same as Community Groups except where noted below.

Creation of a Business Group

Business Groups are created in the same manner as Community Groups, except that a proposal is not complete until at least five Organizations support creation of the group. Because goal of Business Groups is to grow the W3C community, we expect Business Groups to have a mix of Member and non-Member Organizations and individuals.

Joining a Business Group

Joining a Business Group is the same as for a Community Group, except that:

  • there is a participation fee,
  • the individual participant fee is available to unaffiliated individuals or those granted an exception at the sole discretion of the Community Development Lead, and
  • participants must also agree to the Business Group Agreement.

Note: We are working on the text of the Business Group Agreement.

Business Group Participation Fees

The following fees apply:

TypeAnnual fee (USD)
Large non-Member Organization10,000
Small non-Member Organization2000
Unaffiliated individual300
W3C Member0

A "Large" organization is one whose annual gross revenue, as measured by the most recent audited statement, is greater than or equal to 50M USD. A "Small" organization is one with revenues less than that threshold, with more than one employee.

For non-Member Organizations that join a Business Group, any number of their employees may participate in that group.

If an Organization is itself a consortium, user society, or otherwise has members or sponsors, the Organization may assign any number of paid staff to a Business Group and one other individual not employed by the Organization (or more at the discretion of the Community Development Lead).

An unaffiliated individual is one that has no significant employment relationship with an Organization. An unaffiliated individual is not considered an "Organization" under this policy.

W3C Members must not assign non-employee representatives to a Business Group.

Fees are based on USD but may be paid in Euros or Yen as well.

Note: We expect to move fee information outside this policy document.

Invoices, Renewal, and Termination

Thirty days (30) after the launch date (and any anniversary thereafter):

  • If the number of non-Member Organization participants satisfies the threshold required to launch the group, W3C invoices the participants.
  • Otherwise the Community Development Lead should close the group. The Community Development Lead may choose to delay closure when parties have declared their intention to join rapidly.

Participants have thirty (30) days to pay an invoice, otherwise they are removed from the group. Invoices are then posted on each anniversary of the launch date.

If a Participant intends to terminate the agreement, the participant must do so no later than forty-five (45) days prior to the anniversary. If W3C receives enough termination notices that the number of non-Member Organizations in the group drops below the threshold, the Community Development Lead may close the group.

Business Group Communications

Each Business Group will have both public and non-public communications mechanisms. The participants decide which channel they use to conduct their work. If the group chooses to conduct its work on non-public channels, the group must maintain a public home page on the W3C site and must provide a public communication about their work at least every six months. This may take the form of a publication, a summary of work, or other form most suitable to keep the community informed of its progress.

Business Group Deliverables

Deliverables are the same as for Community Groups, except the published documents (specifications and other types) are called "Business Group Reports".

Staff Involvement in Business Groups

Business Groups do not have staff contacts, but W3C management allocates a small percentage of staff time to consult to Business Groups and help them accomplish their goals.

In addition:

  • Business Group Chairs may request an annual review with W3C management and the technical staff, to share progress and gather feedback on technical direction.
  • For Business Groups creating materials they intend as input to a Working Group (e.g., an industry-specific set of requirements), the staff will help to coordinate direct Chair-to-Chair communication.

Participation Policies

These policies designed to encourage constructive participation and to balance IPR considerations with ease of participation.

Violations of these policies should be brought to the attention of the Community Development Lead. The Community Development Lead is authorized to ban participants for violations of this policy or the signed Agreements, and also to reinstate them. Banned participants may appeal to the Head of W3C Communications.

Community Group Agreement

The Community Group Agreement seeks to balance the concerns of both implementers and IPR-holders. This section gives an informative overview of the two license agreements involved:

Note: There have also been proposals for a form of Community Group that has no legal commitments (making it very easy to join) and that produces no deliverables. However, W3C is not planning to offer the option of a "no commitment" group at launch.


All participant contributions are made available under a permissive copyright license that allow the creation of derivative works.

A Business Group may choose to publish its document under the W3C Document Licence.


Participants make patent commitments in two steps:

  1. Upon making a contribution. A participant that makes a contribution to a specification agrees to Royalty-Free patent licenses for the contribution. This commitment is governed by the W3C Community Contributor License Agreement (CLA). Note: The CLA provides limited patent rights, which is why the execution of the Final Specification Agreement is important for wide deployment.
  2. When a specification is finalized. When the group has completed work on the specification, the Chair issues a call for final commitments. Participants make voluntary Royalty-Free patent license commitments over the entire specification. This commitment is governed by the W3C Community Final Specification Agreement. In addition, the W3C Community Group Agreement involves a commitment so that material that advances to W3C Recommendation also benefits (automatically) from a Royalty-Free commitment.

The two-step process is designed to:

  • make it possible to start a group quickly, since organizations may not be required to evaluate portfolios against a scope statement.
  • make it easier for companies to join a group, since a company's initial commitment only extends to the company's own contributions.
  • provide implementers with some patent protection during development of a specification, and even more when the specification is completed.

W3C has a preference for organizational, rather than individual commitments. Requests to participate in an individual capacity without a corresponding organizational commitment will be subject to approval by the W3C staff, such approval to be granted or denied in the W3C Staff’s sole discretion.


There are no disclosure obligations.

General Communications Policies

All Participants agree to the following general communications policies:

  • Participants must have an identity within the community.
  • Communications must not be disruptive. Participants must refrain from defaming, harassing or otherwise offending other participants or their organizations.
  • Participants must not send unsolicited commercial messages or other promotional activities for personal matters or for third parties.
  • Participants must respect confidentiality levels of communications.


In the appendix → 


Business Group
A Business Group is a forum where Members and non-Members can work together on business applications, including the application of W3C technologies for a specific industry, development of industry-specific use cases, and development requirements as input to a Working Group. Non-Members pay a fee (less than W3C Membership) to support staff dedicated to the Business Group.
Community Development Lead
The individual responsible for the Community Group program. The Community Development Lead, appointed by the W3C Management, is responsible for:
  • Monitoring the W3C Forum
  • Managing escalation of issues
  • Managing the composition and operations of the Community Council
  • Liaison with the W3C Staff (e.g., for outreach opportunities)
Community Council
This task force assists existing community groups (e.g., in how the standards process works, accessibility input early in the development of the specification) and proactively seeks opportunities to engage with communities outside W3C, to find and communicate opportunities for liaisons.
Community Group
A Community Group provides a venue for document development or discussion where anyone may participate with no fee.
Community Submission
Community Submissions are proposals made in the W3C Forum. A Community Submission that is supported becomes input to a Community Group.
Community Group Report
A Community Group Report is a document (specification or other) produced by a Community Group, governed by the Community Group Agreement. It may subsequently become input to a W3C Working Group.
W3C Forum
A single global public forum where anyone may begin to generate interest around new ideas.


The primary objectives of this program are to:

Opening W3C to more participants will lead to new ideas and improve our reputation among developers and other stakeholders. Community support will help W3C create high quality, relevant standards and thus strengthen our role as stewards for key Web technologies and best practices. Community-driven processes will also enable W3C to do more work, as well as enhance the value of Membership and the importance of staff as technology experts, mentors, and diplomats.

Create a Welcoming Environment

Create a welcoming environment where diverse individuals, companies, research organizations, and other communities choose to exchange ideas about Web technology.

  • Lower the cost of participation (e.g., zero fee, simpler process, easier sign-up, etc.)
  • Define a straightforward progression through the introduction of ideas, community building, standardization, and de jure recognition (the last out of scope for this task force). The goal of the progression is to promote the creation of high quality, widely accepted specifications and guidelines.
  • Ensure that W3C operations scale, so that groups functioning smoothly may do so with independence, while providing support (e.g., mentoring, tutorials, good practices) to newcomers or any party seeking assistance.
  • Offer useful collaborative tools for specification development, communication, decision-making, issue tracking, and code development.
  • Explore ideas to encourage more international participation.

Build Community Trust

Build community trust by emphasizing how W3C can help different communities, and by improving W3C processes, and communications.

  • Actively develop constructive working relationships with other ad-hoc groups, SDOs, and other bodies developing Web-related technology. Reinforce that we are interested in serving diverse communities and helping them get work done.
  • Improve transparency (e.g., of decision-making, through simple explanations of W3C governance and operations, public information about finances, etc.)
  • Ensure that participants interact in civil and constructive ways. Manage disruptive behavior effectively.
  • Find mechanisms whereby small groups of people leading development of a technology may benefit from the insights of other stakeholders while continuing to make progress. In other words: balance fairness, quality, responsiveness, and progress. (Different processes may set different expectations.)
  • Provide an environment where participants can contribute intellectual property to the community while benefiting from protections, and the community can implement the resulting core Web standards with no fee.

Process Comparison

W3C expects for Community and Business Groups to replace Incubator Groups after a transition period. Existing Incubator Groups may continue until their charter expires.

Today there are Interest Groups that are merely mailing lists. This draft does not eliminate those, but observes that Community Groups can accommodate that function as well, with more infrastructure.

Comparison Table

The following table compares some key elements of existing and proposed processes.

Working Interest Incubator Community Business
Scope Determined by Charter Determined by Charter Determined by Charter Determined by scope statement Application of technology to business context; requirements and use cases; input to standards process
Creation process Director proposes charter to Membership Director proposes charter to Membership Members propose charter to staff Proposal is "complete" Proposal is "complete"
Duration Limited by charter, may be extended Limited by charter, may be extended One year, may be extended Unlimited Unlimited
Primary Deliverable Standards-track and supporting Note Incubator Group Report Community Specification Non-standards track deliverable; application of technology to their business environment
Staff Contact Yes Yes No No Small consulting role (e.g,. share expertise, but not likely to attend meetings regularly). But determined by W3M on a case-by-case basis.
Other Staff Interactions Background support and coordination Background support and coordination (for some) Administrative. Participation by individuals in some Monitoring, Outreach
  • One project review with Team annually
  • Light Monitoring by staff
  • Liaison role as needed
  • Communications of final reports through W3C news channels and to W3C Membership
Other Coordination Via CGs Via CGs None Ad-hoc (e.g., organized by Community Development Lead) Direct Chair-to-Chair connectivity for Business Groups developing material intended as input to a Working Group.
Fee to participate/organize Membership or Invited Expert (no fee) Membership or Invited Expert (no fee) Membership or Invited Expert (no fee) None Annual fees (see joining a Business Group)
Visibility of communications Public or Member Generally Public Generally Public Public (with non-Public for admin) Public or non-Public
Patent Policy W3C Patent Policy (Recommendations) W3C Patent Policy (Disclosure) Two options in practice: Disclosure-only, RF for work that moves to the Recommendation track (but not for the Incubator Group Report itself) Community Group Agreement Community Group Agreement
Copyright for documents W3C Document License W3C Document License W3C Document License Community Group Agreement Community Group Agreement or W3C Document License
Copyright for software W3C Software License W3C Software License W3C Software License Group determines, but expectation is compatibility with Open Source Software Licenses. Group determines, but expectation is compatibility with Open Source Software Licenses.
Chair selection Appointed by Director Appointed by Director Members who propose determine Group determines Group determines
Reporting requirement Heartbeat requirement None None None None
Access to Member site Depends on charter Depends on charter Depends on charter (but not generally for invited experts) No No
Decision-making based on consensus Required Required where applicable Recommended where applicable Recommended where applicable Recommended where applicable
Expectations regarding scope overlap with other groups Actively avoided Actively avoided Acceptable but not recommended Acceptable but not recommended Acceptable but not recommended

Implementation Notes

W3C Forum

  • Community Forum discussions should be cc'd to www-talk.

Common to Community and Business Groups

  • W3C announces the creation of new Community Groups and lists all open, proposed, and closed Community and Business Groups.
  • W3C establishes a policy for w3.org URI allocation for groups, publications, etc.
  • W3C provides a public list of Group participants and their affiliations (for transparent participation).
  • For every final report, W3C lists the participants and which made final commitments.
  • W3C provides both public and non-public communications mechanisms with archives. Non-public visibility is: participants + Members + staff.
  • W3C will alert Advisory Committee Representatives when Member employees join a group. Note, however, that this notification requirement is linked to the question of who joins Community Groups for Members (AC Representatives or individual employees who represent organizational interests when signing).
  • The CLA and Final agreements rely on identification of a "Specification." To reduce administrative burden, the Community Group Agreement is per-group rather than per-specifiation.

Specific to Community Groups

  • W3C will provide mechanisms for publication of Community Submissions and that allow Forum participants to comment on them.

Specific to Business Groups

  • Business groups have access to teleconference resources.
  • For organizational participants we will need actual signatures of the Business Group Agreement.


If my organization joins no Community Groups, does this proposal change existing agreements or commitments within W3C Working Groups?


Are there invited experts in Community Groups or Business Groups?


Some people want to participate but not sign the Contributor Agreement. How do we manage that?

A group may establish a public communications channel that anyone may read and write to, without having those people sign the Contributor Agreement. While this arrangement makes it easier for people to be part of a conversation, accepting text contributions from non-participants (via any channel, electronic or otherwise) raises significant IPR concerns for both participants and implementers. It is thus preferable that individuals working for companies (W3C Members and non-Members) join as company representatives. The Contributor Agreement is intended to be lightweight to encourage organizational IPR commitments, which benefit all.

Can CGs and BGs conduct work in a language other than English?

Yes. However, the Community Group Reports must be available in English. Groups are encouraged to provide periodic updates in English for the benefit of the community.

Can an individual who works for a W3C Member join a Community or Business Group?

Yes. The Member makes the IPR commitment, however. The details of the join process are still being developed. For instance, Advisory Committee Representatives may be required to make the commitment before the individual can participation, or, the individual may be permitted to represent the interests of the Member upon signing the agreement.

Can a Community Group use its own infrastructure not hosted by W3C?

For some actions, yes. W3C infrastructure is used to record who joins or leaves a group. A Community Group may use its own infrastructure to host communications, as long as those communications are public and archived permanently. The recommended way to accomplish this is to use a W3C archived mailing list in conjunction with the offsite system.

Draft reports may be published anywhere, although final reports are published on W3C's site.

Can I grant claims under a non-assert instead of the license defined in the CLA and Final Specification Agreements?

No. However, you may, at your option, grant a non-assert in addition to the license provisions of the agreements (see "Optional, Additional Patent Grant."). Some examples of non-assert agreements include OWF agreements, the Oasis non-Assert Covenant, or the Microsoft Open Specification Promise.

Do all Participants have to sign the Final Specification Agreement?

No. The two-Agreement system was designed to make it easier and faster to start groups: in general, it is possible to start a group with little understanding of the direction of a specification. However, in exchange, Participants may choose not to sign the Final Agreement, if, for example, they are not satisfied with the emerging specification.

Of course, walking away from a specification can raise questions about whether the Participant holds Essential Claims on text not covered by the CLA. To reduce community doubt, these Participants may choose (but are not required) to disclose relevant information about any Essential Claims.

Please also note the Non-Circumvention provision of the CLA.

What are main similarities and differences between IPR policies of Working Groups and Community/Business Groups?

Here is a rough summary of primary similarities and differences.



  • Participants make Royalty-Free Licensing Requirements as defined in the W3C Patent Policy. However, the scope of defensive suspension is broader in the W3C Patent Policy.
  • Participants have no disclosure obligations over the deliverables of the group.

However, the policies take different approaches in order to meet different needs (e.g., favoring lower risk or quicker startup):

  • The W3C Patent Policy is "opt-out": Participants make commitments based on charter scope, then have exclusion opportunities for each Recommendation.
  • The Community/Business Group policy is "opt-in": Participants first make commitments over their own contributions (with a limited opt-out period in case of mistakes). Then, when a specification is stable, participants make a voluntary "final text commitment" over the group specification as well as an RF commitment for material that advances to the Recommendation Track. (There are additional details regarding exclusion in such cases.)


  • The Community Group copyright is permissive for the creation of derivative works. The W3C Document License is not.


The original version of the Community Group program was created by the New Standards Task Force. The Business Group proposal was created by the Value Proposition for Users Task Force. Many thanks to David Rudin for drafting legal language. Thanks also to Marcia Courtemanche, Scott Peterson, Larry Rosen, and Helene Workman for legal assistance. The draft IPR policy benefited from input from W3C's Patent and Standards Interest Group (PSIG).

Ian Jacobs, Head of W3C Communications, Editor
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