W3C patent license policy question

Previous Topic Next Topic
 
classic Classic list List threaded Threaded
4 messages Options
Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

W3C patent license policy question

Benjamin Schwartz
I'm writing as a volunteer for Xiph.Org, developer of free multimedia
technology like Ogg Vorbis and Theora.  We're part of an IETF audio codec
effort called "Opus" that may soon end up in the W3C through the
WebRTC/RTC-Web effort.

At the IETF, we have licensed several patents related to Opus under the
strongest royalty-free license we could devise [1].  I think our license
is similar to what the W3C expects.

How can we make sure that our license would be acceptable at the W3C?
We'd like to be sure it is, because we may start recommending it as a
template for others interested in royalty-free licenses.

Thanks,
Ben Schwartz

[1] https://datatracker.ietf.org/ipr/1524/
[2] http://www.webmproject.org/license/additional/

P.S. I think there's a bug in the patent policy text.[3] Section 5.6 of
the W3C patent policy ("may be suspended with respect to any licensee when
licensor is sued by licensee")[3] is incompatible with the "non-normative
summary"[4], which says "The license may require a royalty-free "grant
back" or reciprocal licenses either to the original patent holder or to
all other implementers".  I imagine that "or to all other implementors" is
the actual intention.

[3] http://www.w3.org/Consortium/Patent-Policy-20040205/#sec-Requirements
[4] http://www.w3.org/2004/02/05-patentsummary.html


signature.asc (205 bytes) Download Attachment
Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: W3C patent license policy question

Ian Jacobs-2

On 2 Aug 2011, at 3:01 PM, Benjamin M. Schwartz wrote:

Hi Ben,

Thanks for writing.

> I'm writing as a volunteer for Xiph.Org, developer of free multimedia
> technology like Ogg Vorbis and Theora.  We're part of an IETF audio codec
> effort called "Opus" that may soon end up in the W3C through the
> WebRTC/RTC-Web effort.

What does "end up in W3C" mean precisely? Does it mean that a Working Group would start with the IETF text as a contribution?

> At the IETF, we have licensed several patents related to Opus under the
> strongest royalty-free license we could devise [1].  I think our license
> is similar to what the W3C expects.
>
> How can we make sure that our license would be acceptable at the W3C?

Good question, but I think we need to understand the expectation more before finding the best solution.

> We'd like to be sure it is, because we may start recommending it as a
> template for others interested in royalty-free licenses.
>
> Thanks,
> Ben Schwartz
>
> [1] https://datatracker.ietf.org/ipr/1524/
> [2] http://www.webmproject.org/license/additional/
>
> P.S. I think there's a bug in the patent policy text.[3] Section 5.6 of
> the W3C patent policy ("may be suspended with respect to any licensee when
> licensor is sued by licensee")[3] is incompatible with the "non-normative
> summary"[4], which says "The license may require a royalty-free "grant
> back" or reciprocal licenses either to the original patent holder or to
> all other implementers".  I imagine that "or to all other implementors" is
> the actual intention.

The bullets of the summary are intended to align with section 5.6 as follows:

Provision 1 in 5.6 is 1 in summary.
Provision 3 in 5.6 is 2 in summary.
Provision 4 in 5.6 is 3 in summary.
Provision 5 in 5.6 is 4 in summary.
Provision 6 in 5.6 is 5 in summary.
Provision 7 in 5.6 is 6 in summary.

Your comment associates 5.6 #6 with Summary #3 but those aren't intended to be associated.

In light of the above pairings, does it still seem like a bug? I'm happy to update the summary to fix a bug but I am not sure to understand it yet.

Ian

>
> [3] http://www.w3.org/Consortium/Patent-Policy-20040205/#sec-Requirements
> [4] http://www.w3.org/2004/02/05-patentsummary.html
>

--
Ian Jacobs ([hidden email])    http://www.w3.org/People/Jacobs/
Tel:                                      +1 718 260 9447


Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: W3C patent license policy question

Benjamin Schwartz
On 08/02/2011 05:39 PM, Ian Jacobs wrote:
> What does "end up in W3C" mean precisely? Does it mean that a Working Group would start with the IETF text as a contribution?

I'm not familiar with the structure of RTC-Web, but it seems more likely
that the IETF Opus text will end up as a normative reference in a W3C
recommendation.  From the FAQ, I understand that the W3C's policies are
much less strict in this case, and our license is unlikely to be an issue.

>> How can we make sure that our license would be acceptable at the W3C?
>
> Good question, but I think we need to understand the expectation more before finding the best solution.

Maybe this question is about how contributors actually license patents in
the W3C.  For example the FAQ
(http://www.w3.org/2003/12/22-pp-faq.html#ownlicense) says:

"Organizations ... may not make individual modifications to or departures
from the licensing requirements".  "each entity ... makes a choice between
two straightforward options: 'we agree' or 'we don't agree' to the terms
of the Patent Policy".

but then also says

"Organizations offering licenses meeting the W3C Royalty-Free requirements
may point to the specific contact information and entity-specific license
terms"

The first part suggests to me that the W3C does not recognize any
entity-specific license terms, and the second says that they _may_ or even
_must_ offer their own licenses (that meet the requirements).

Here's a concrete example: W3C appears to specify that the reciprocal
grant and termination conditions only apply to "essential" patent claims,
and provides some guidelines for determining whether a claim is essential.
 We have been unable to find a satisfactory definition for "essential",
and so our license says:

"If you ... file a Claim for patent infringement against ... an
Implementation ... provided that a Reference Implementation also infringes
the patents asserted in the Claim, then any patent rights granted to you
under this License shall automatically terminate retroactively"

We choose this wording to avoid lawsuits in cases where a non-infringing
alternative exists but is impractical or undesirable.  Arguably, we are
merely operationalizing the word "essential".  (WebM does something similar.)

So what would happen if a W3C member were to offer this as their license
in a working group?  I see 4 options:

1.  W3C doesn't care what their license says, because they have already
automatically offered a license under the W3C Patent Policy (i.e. the
policy is an automatic license).

2.  W3C sees this as an acceptable license.

3.  W3C sees this as an unacceptable license, rejects it, and requires the
member to provide an acceptable license
3a.  ... because the only acceptable license is a copy of the text of the
Patent Policy.

4.  W3C takes no position on whether a member has offered a compliant license.

I'd like to know which of these options is most likely ... especially if
it's 3, so that we don't end up recommending a license that puts people in
conflict with the W3C.

>> P.S. I think there's a bug in the patent policy text.
...
> Your comment associates 5.6 #6 with Summary #3 but those aren't intended to be associated.
>
> In light of the above pairings, does it still seem like a bug?

Nope, you're right.  The W3C draws a distinction here between "conditioned
on a grant of a reciprocal RF license" and "may be suspended ... when
licensor is sued".  I find this confusing and possibly redundant, but
that's par for the course in licensing.


signature.asc (205 bytes) Download Attachment
Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view
|

Re: W3C patent license policy question

Ian Jacobs-2

On 2 Aug 2011, at 5:35 PM, Benjamin M. Schwartz wrote:

> On 08/02/2011 05:39 PM, Ian Jacobs wrote:
>> What does "end up in W3C" mean precisely? Does it mean that a Working Group would start with the IETF text as a contribution?
>
> I'm not familiar with the structure of RTC-Web, but it seems more likely
> that the IETF Opus text will end up as a normative reference in a W3C
> recommendation.  From the FAQ, I understand that the W3C's policies are
> much less strict in this case, and our license is unlikely to be an issue.

That's probably true. We refer to lots of IETF specifications normatively (and those of other organizations as well).

>
>>> How can we make sure that our license would be acceptable at the W3C?
>>
>> Good question, but I think we need to understand the expectation more before finding the best solution.
>
> Maybe this question is about how contributors actually license patents in
> the W3C.

>  For example the FAQ
> (http://www.w3.org/2003/12/22-pp-faq.html#ownlicense) says:
>
> "Organizations ... may not make individual modifications to or departures
> from the licensing requirements".  "each entity ... makes a choice between
> two straightforward options: 'we agree' or 'we don't agree' to the terms
> of the Patent Policy".
>
> but then also says
>
> "Organizations offering licenses meeting the W3C Royalty-Free requirements
> may point to the specific contact information and entity-specific license
> terms"
>
> The first part suggests to me that the W3C does not recognize any
> entity-specific license terms, and the second says that they _may_ or even
> _must_ offer their own licenses (that meet the requirements).

On the one hand the license you offer must conform to the licensing requirements of section 5. But section 5 does not address every last part of what would go in a license; for instance I seem to recall that "governing law" might be something covered in a license but that is not addressed explicitly by section 5.

>
> Here's a concrete example: W3C appears to specify that the reciprocal
> grant and termination conditions only apply to "essential" patent claims,
> and provides some guidelines for determining whether a claim is essential.
> We have been unable to find a satisfactory definition for "essential",
> and so our license says:
>
> "If you ... file a Claim for patent infringement against ... an
> Implementation ... provided that a Reference Implementation also infringes
> the patents asserted in the Claim, then any patent rights granted to you
> under this License shall automatically terminate retroactively"
>
> We choose this wording to avoid lawsuits in cases where a non-infringing
> alternative exists but is impractical or undesirable.  Arguably, we are
> merely operationalizing the word "essential".  (WebM does something similar.)
>
> So what would happen if a W3C member were to offer this as their license
> in a working group?

The short answer is: it needs to meet the W3C licensing requirements in order to fulfill the patent policy obligations.

But note that W3C does not evaluate licenses. The discussion of concrete licensing terms is one that takes place between two separate parties.

Ian


>  I see 4 options:
>
> 1.  W3C doesn't care what their license says, because they have already
> automatically offered a license under the W3C Patent Policy (i.e. the
> policy is an automatic license).
>
> 2.  W3C sees this as an acceptable license.
>
> 3.  W3C sees this as an unacceptable license, rejects it, and requires the
> member to provide an acceptable license
> 3a.  ... because the only acceptable license is a copy of the text of the
> Patent Policy.

>
> 4.  W3C takes no position on whether a member has offered a compliant license.
>
> I'd like to know which of these options is most likely ... especially if
> it's 3, so that we don't end up recommending a license that puts people in
> conflict with the W3C.
>
>>> P.S. I think there's a bug in the patent policy text.
> ...
>> Your comment associates 5.6 #6 with Summary #3 but those aren't intended to be associated.
>>
>> In light of the above pairings, does it still seem like a bug?
>
> Nope, you're right.  The W3C draws a distinction here between "conditioned
> on a grant of a reciprocal RF license" and "may be suspended ... when
> licensor is sued".  I find this confusing and possibly redundant, but
> that's par for the course in licensing.
>

--
Ian Jacobs ([hidden email])    http://www.w3.org/People/Jacobs/
Tel:                                      +1 718 260 9447