Apple Issues Statement Concerning Plan To Allow Royalties To Be Charged For Web Standards

There is an important battle being waged by the Powers That Be in the halls of the World Wide Web Consortium (known as the W3C). A proposal has been made that would allow patent holders of technologies that are made official standards by the W3C to charge royalties for the use of those standards. In other words, if a company submits a particular technology to the W3C for acceptance as a standard, say a replacement for TCP/IP, that company would be entitled to charge a fee to anyone, who uses that technology. This is potentially one of the biggest threats to an open Internet we have yet seen, and Apple has come down clearly on the side of "right" in this issue.

Apple has issued a statement of support for standards to remain free of the royalty process. HP has also joined Apple in pushing for this, though both were part of the original draft process, and both companies have issued similar statements.

After careful consideration of the draft patent policy, Apple believes that it is essential to continued interoperability and development of the Web that fundamental W3C standards be available on a royalty-free basis. In line with the W3Cis mission to "lead the Web to its full potential," Apple supports a W3C patent policy with an immutable commitment to royalty-free licensing for fundamental Web standards. Apple offers this statement in support of its position.


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. 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 groupis recommendation, and that it is unwilling to license on a royalty-free basis. The working group must then steer its recommendation clear of any known unavailable patent rights. If this cannot be accomplished, that working group might need to cease standardization activities in its particular area. This opt-out mechanism would allow an entity to preserve its intellectual property rights, but only by removing it from the realm of open Web standards. In order to proliferate royalty-free Web standards, a memberis obligation to license essential patents could be conditioned on the grant of a reciprocal royalty-free license by any practitioner.

A rough translation of this would be that Apple is suggesting that if you want to charge money for your patents keep them out of the W3C standards process; otherwise, donit complain when they get used for free.

You can read more about HPis statement and other background information in a C|Net article that was published this weekend. You can read all of Appleis new statement at the Apple Web site.