Internet

W3C publishes patent policy

The World Wide Web Consortium, in the throes of deciding on a new policy for handling patent issues in its standards, clarifies where it currently stands.

The World Wide Web Consortium, in the throes of deciding on a new policy for handling patent issues in its standards, has published its existing policy to clarify where it currently stands.

The W3C develops industry standards for Web technologies, working with software developers and others. It first broached the idea last year of allowing patented technologies to be used in standards.

The initial proposal met with significant criticism, especially from supporters of open-source and free software. The main complaint was that allowing patented technologies to be used in what are intended to be global standards could stifle development and create significant legal barriers for innovation.

The current policy requires W3C members to disclose patents that may be applicable to any standard. If a disclosed patent is determined to be essential but is not available to standard users on a royalty-free basis, a Patent Advisory Group will be created to resolve the conflict.

If the working group is unable to come up with any other solution, it may recommend using the patent and allowing the patent holder to charge royalties on a RAND (reasonable and nondiscriminatory) basis. The RAND requirement would be subject to advisory committee review and the approval of the W3C director.

The W3C is accepting comment on its proposal now; a final draft is expected to be ready in the next few months.