The proposal stipulates that participants in development of W3C recommendations must agree to license "essential claims" - defined as patents that block interoperability - on a royalty-free basis. It does not require relinquishing an entire patent portfolio, just patent claims essential to implement a standard that a patent holder participates in developing at W3C.
The issue of royalty-free technologies has come up recently in W3C deliberations on development of the Soap 1.2 specification and on Web services choreography, which is expected to be the subject of a new W3C working group.
Sun Microsystems, which has submitted its Web Services Choreography Interface (WSCI) proposal on Web services choreography to the W3C, supports royalty-free standards, said Sun manager of XML industry initiatives Susy Struble.
"I know that the WC3 right now has a really nice intellectual property policy which states at the beginning of the work effort [that] you must declare whether you have any intellectual property that's essential and what the licensing terms are," Struble said.
Microsoft and IBM also have proposed a standard on Web services choreography, called Business Process Execution Language for Web Services (BPEL4WS). It has not yet been submitted for consideration by a standards organisation.
Both Microsoft and IBM released prepared statements upon inquiries about the companies' royalty policies pertaining to W3C choreography standardisation efforts.
IBM said, "IBM's primary concern is BPEL4WS, and we are working with our partners to finalise the choice of standards body to which we will submit the specification. We will make an IP statement once BPEL4WS is submitted to that standards body."
IBM continued:, "The W3C IP policy is not an issue for IBM in our considerations of where to take BPEL4WS. It is our intent to standardise BPEL4WS with our industry colleagues in a way that can help ensure that BPEL4WS is as broadly adopted as possible."
"We aren't at liberty to discuss future technical committee decisions or discussions," Microsoft said in a statement. "We will continue to make licensing statements on a specification-by-specification basis, when the specification has matured and it's ready for public consumption, or when it is submitted to a standards body. And of course, we comply with the IPR [intellectual property rights] policies of the different standards bodies we work with."
Web services choreography, according to Sun, is a description of what exactly a Web service can do. BPEL4WS, considered similar to the WSCI proposal, is designed to ensure that differing business processes can understand each other in a Web services environment.
The W3C Patent Policy Working Group, which issued the Last Call document, will produce a final draft proposal for consideration of the W3C membership and the public. Afterwards, a final proposal is to be released, leading eventually to a final policy decision by W3C director Tim Berners-Lee. A final policy is hoped for by May 2003.