W3C finalises patent ban

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is to outlaw the use of patented technology in its technical recommendations, unless they are...

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is to outlaw the use of patented technology in its technical recommendations, unless they are made available on a royalty-free basis.

The consortium said the W3C Patent Policy is designed to reduce the threat that key components of web infrastructure may be covered by patents that block further development.

The policy formalises the W3C's commitment to the royalty-free process which has driven the development of the web since its beginning.

"W3C members who joined in building the web in its first decade made the business decision that they, and the entire world, would benefit most by contributing to standards that could be implemented ubiquitously, without royalty payments," said W3C director Tim Berners-Lee, .

Some concern has been raised that companies seeking royalty payments for their patented work - particularly in the area of web services - may choose to bypass the W3C approval process and use another standards body such as the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (Oasis).

Oasis has been favoured by SAP, Microsoft and IBM, which is heavily promoting the Linux open-source operating system while also securing more patents a year than any other organisation over the past decade.

The W3C policy states that:

  • participants in the development of a W3C Recommendation must agree to license essential claims, such as those that block interoperability, on a royalty-free basis;
  • under certain circumstances, Working Group participants may exclude specifically identified patent claims from the royalty-free commitment, but these exclusions must be made known shortly after publication of the first public working draft to avoid later problems with surprise patents;
  • W3C members who have seen a technical draft of a standard must disclose their knowledge of any patents likely to be essential to the standard;
  • an exception-handling process will deal with any patent claims not available with terms consistent with the W3C Patent Policy.

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