Apple has made a
public statement on the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) draft patent policy. The draft proposes a patent policy for W3C Working Groups and Members.
The W3C believes it is necessary to adopt a more comprehensive policy and process for addressing the relationship between the open technical recommendations developed by W3C and patent rights held by both W3C Members and others.
Apple says the W3C membership should involve not only collaboration to develop standards, but also collaboration to ensure that those standards are, in fact, open and available to users without charge. However, Apple also notes that the open standard may discourage participation in the W3C because people “have legitimate interests in protecting — through intellectual property rights — the fruits of their own investments in technology.
“To balance these conflicting interests, Apple believes that W3C should promulgate only royalty-free standards, but should permit individual members to identify and exclude specific patents that they are not willing to license on a royalty-free basis,” Apple said in an online statement. “To accomplish this, a W3C member would be required to disclose and license to any practitioner all essential patents of a W3C standard. To exclude a patent from this royalty-free license, a W3C member could, on a case-by-case basis, notify a particular working group that it has patent rights that it believes are essential to that working group’s recommendation, and that it is unwilling to license on a royalty-free basis.”
Apple went on to say that while the draft patent policy does state a “preference for royalty-free standards, the ready availability of a RAND option presents too easy an alternative for owners of intellectual property who may seek to use the standardization process to control access to fundamental Web standards. A mandatory royalty-free requirement for all adopted standards will avoid this result.”