World Wide Web Consortium Releases Last Call Working Draft of Patent Policy

Author(s) and publish date


World Wide Web Consortium Releases Last Call Working Draft of Patent Policy - The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) today published a revised, Last Call Working Draft of its Royalty-Free Patent Policy whose goal is to enable W3C Recommendations to be implemented on a royalty-free basis. To achieve the goal of producing royalty-free (RF) specifications, all who participate in the development of a W3C Recommendation must agree to license essential claims (that is, patents that block interoperability) on a royalty-free basis.

Last Call Working Drafts are published when a W3C Working Group feels it has solved internal issues and is seeking outside review. The Last Call comment period is open for public and Member comments through 31 December 2002.

Proposed Policy Keeps W3C Work Open, Protects Rights of Patent Holders

The primary goal of the W3C Patent Policy Working Draft is to enable W3C Recommendations to be implemented on a royalty-free basis, and to encourage disclosure by both W3C Members and others when they are aware of patents - their own or others - that may be essential to the implementation of W3C Recommendations. In simple terms:

  • All who participate in the development of a W3C Recommendation must agree to license essential claims (patents that block interoperability) on a royalty-free (RF) basis
  • Patent disclosures are required for W3C Working Group participants and anyone else who sees the technical drafts and is aware of patents that may be essential.
  • The Working Group has developed a process for resolving disputes in the event patent claims are identified that are not available royalty-free. Options including designing around the patents, investigating the validity of the patents, or transitioning the work to another organization that is willing to produce RAND (reasonable and non-discriminatory terms) standards.

The Policy doesn't require giving up one's entire patent portfolio; it concerns only those patent claims that are essential to implement a standard that one participates in developing at W3C. W3C is clear in aiming to solve a specific problem - to remove the threat of blocking patents on key components of Web infrastructure.

Last Call Draft Makes Commitment to Royalty-Free W3C Results

In previous drafts, the Patent Policy Working Group wrestled with issues regarding both royalty-free and other technologies being incorporated into W3C Recommendations. With this draft, the Working Group explicitly proposes the following:

  • RF Recommendations only are allowed
  • All participants must make up-front commitments to RF licenses for Recommendations they participate in developing
  • The W3C Patent Policy draft allows participants to retain defensive use of their patents; the RF licensing only applies to technologies essential for implementing the W3C Specification.
  • The current draft is considerably less complicated than previous versions. The Working Group removed special rules for contributors.

Further, with the elimination of the RAND track, there's no possibility of switching a design effort in the middle from a RF to a RAND group.

After Vigorous Negotiation, Working Group Seeks Public and W3C Member Comment, Review

This Last Call Working Draft has been released with Working Group consensus (as defined in the W3C Process Document) on all issues. Unlike the August 2001 Working Draft, where two Working Group members filed formal objections, no formal objections were registered on this revision.

It should be clear that the process of developing this policy was complex, and involved a number of decisions taken by majority vote, occasionally with close results. While no participant came away completely happy, all agreed to move forward with the draft.

The Patent Policy Working Group spent the last year responding to comments and criticism from the previous Last Call (mixed RAND and RF) draft, and have been active for a total of three years. Participants in the Patent Policy Working Group include 20 W3C Member organizations, 3 invited experts from the open source/free software community, and W3C staff.

During this Last Call period, the Working Group will be looking for comments from both the W3C Membership and members of the interested public, including independent developers and various user communities around the world.

Next Steps Include Broad Review, Decisions in 2003

Following the Last Call period, the Patent Policy Working Group will produce a final draft proposal for the consideration of the W3C Membership and public. This final proposal - called a Proposed Recommendation at W3C - will be through the standard review process undertaken for all W3C technical Recommendations, concluding in decision by the W3C Director, Tim Berners-Lee about the final policy. The Working Group hopes to advance to Proposed Recommendation in February or March 2003, with a final policy to be adopted by May 2003.

In the meantime, W3C technical work will be governed by the Current Patent Practice Note, a document that sets a goal of producing royalty-free technical specifications, but does not require RF commitments from participants at the start of new Working Groups.


About the World Wide Web Consortium [W3C]

The W3C was created to lead the Web to its full potential by developing common protocols that promote its evolution and ensure its interoperability. It is an international industry consortium jointly run by the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (MIT LCS) in the USA, the National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA) in France and Keio University in Japan. Services provided by the Consortium include: a repository of information about the World Wide Web for developers and users, and various prototype and sample applications to demonstrate use of new technology. To date, over 450 organizations are Members of the Consortium. For more information see


Contact Americas, Australia --
Janet Daly, <>, +1.617.253.5884 or +1.617.253.2613
Contact Europe --
Marie-Claire Forgue, <>, +33.492.38.75.94
Contact Asia --
Saeko Takeuchi <>, +81.466.49.1170

Related RSS feed