Antitrust and competition policy - 2024 version

Status of this document: This document supersedes the 2017 version. This policy was adopted by the W3C Board of Directors on 5 March 2024 and is shown to participants when they join W3C work groups.


W3C is dedicated to the development of technical specifications and best practices for interoperability. Among other benefits, these activities are pro-competitive when properly conducted: when products are interoperable, substitution of one implementation for another (for example, changing Web browsers) is more easily accomplished.

Furthermore, the diversity of W3C's Membership -- including academia, government representatives, and civil society -- assures that our Recommendations reflect many different viewpoints, not just those of direct competitors. Non-Members can also participate in many activities and have the right to raise a Formal Objection.

Finally, W3C requires by its Process open and fair deliberations that lead to consensus-based decisions, its Recommendations are voluntary to implement, and it strongly encourages participants to make essential intellectual property available on a royalty-free basis. These factors are again pro-competitive.

Nevertheless, W3C meetings and other activities necessarily involve participation by industry competitors and therefore can attract antitrust / competition law enforcement scrutiny if they appear to violate applicable laws.

It is extremely important that all W3C participants avoid being party to any activities that are prohibited under the antitrust or competition laws of any applicable jurisdiction. As a venue for developing technical standards, it is essential for W3C to clearly state its commitment to comply with antitrust and competition laws for the benefit of all stakeholders and participants.

This document explains W3C's antitrust and competition policy, which incorporates general guidelines for participants. However, this policy is not intended to serve as legal advice or to definitively protect against liability. W3C therefore strongly encourages participants to forward all questions relating to antitrust and competition law compliance to their own legal counsel.

Antitrust and competition policy statement

It is the express W3C policy to require that all its activities be conducted strictly in accordance with the antitrust and competition laws of all relevant jurisdictions.

All persons participating in W3C activities have a duty to ensure that their behavior is compliant with the guidelines below, along with applicable antitrust and competition law.

W3C's policies and operating procedures facilitate compliance with antitrust law. This includes but is not limited to:

  • The Patent Policy, which helps to ensure that patents and other Intellectual Property Rights cannot be used to unfairly influence standards development, implementation, deployment, and adoption.
  • The Member Agreement and Membership fees, which are structured to encourage diverse participation.
  • The Process Document, which encourages open development of technical specifications, requires certain transparency measures (e.g., requiring that agendas be prepared for all meetings and followed; requiring that meeting minutes be distributed so that those present may ensure that they are accurate and complete), allows public review of deliverables, and is consensus-seeking.

Guidelines for participants

The following summary outlines general guidelines that all participants must follow in connection with W3C-sponsored or convened meetings, online and in-person activities, and social gatherings (together, “Activities”). This is not a complete or authoritative guide.

  1. Always conduct interactions with competitors as if they were in the public view; avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
  2. Do not discuss (even in jest) or exchange non-public information regarding, or agree upon (whether verbally, in writing, informally, or by implication), any of the following with any actual or known potential competitor while engaged in any W3C Activity:
    1. Information, strategies, or policies about past, current or future pricing by an industry or individual company, including without limitation: actual or anticipated prices, price changes, price differentials, price formulas, methods of determining or implementing prices, mark-ups, discounts, rebates, warranties, allowances, credit terms, costs, sales, profits, margins, or other competitively sensitive information.
    2. An individual company's market share for any product or service or for all products and/or services. Note that this does not prohibit discussing the market’s features overall.
    3. An individual company's bids or intentions to bid for particular products or customers, their procedures for responding to bid invitations, specific contractual arrangements, or terms of customers or suppliers.
    4. An individual company's current or projected costs of product procurement, development, or manufacture.
    5. Individual company marketing plans, strategies, or market division, including without limitation, plans regarding geographic territories, demographic groups, individual customers to be targeted or ignored by that company, or planned introduction dates or "appropriate levels" of output of particular products, technologies, or services by an individual company.
    6. Non-public changes in individual company or industry-wide production, capacity, or inventories.
    7. Decreasing or eliminating competition, including without limitation:
      • proposing or engaging in boycotts
      • "cornering" the market
      • excluding any person or entity from any W3C activity (except through established procedures such as enforcement of the Code of Conduct)
      • excluding any person or entity from any given market or from competition
      • influencing the business conduct of other firms to adversely affect any third person or entity (including actual and potential suppliers, resellers or customers), or
      • encouraging or forcing others to modify a business relationship with third parties. Note that this does not prohibit defining best practices.
    8. Information, strategies, or policies about an individual company’s wages, salaries, and benefits for employees.
    9. Individual company product design, characteristics, production, capacity, supply, or distribution, except where necessary to achieve interoperability in fact, create benchmarks or tests, and define standards.
  3. If you are part of a meeting or discussion that appears to violate this advice, bring your concern to the attention of the meeting chair and ask that the topic be changed. If this does not happen, excuse yourself and immediately bring the situation to the attention of a W3C Team member.