Intellectual Property Rights Management

To contribute to the web platform, you must forfeit your intellectual property rights associated with the technology or technique you’re contributing. Companies that make browser engines use the W3C and now the WHATWG and other standards bodies to facilitate this process so that all technologies standardized as part of the web are available royalty free. All WHATWG standards are royalty-free. Most W3C Working Groups operate under a royalty-free (RF) licensing mode, but there are some exceptions that have used a “reasonable and non-discriminatory” (RAND) licensing mode, for example EPUB3.

When contributing to the web, you or the company that you work for will be asked to sign an intellectual property rights agreement which makes copyrights in technologies you work on royalty free and renders patents that govern the technology you are working on neutral, or not enforceable in the context of any implementation of the standard to which you have contributed.

At the W3C this is called the W3C patent policy which you have to agree to, either as a representative of your company or as an “invited expert”. At the WHATWG you or your company must sign a Contributors License Agreement.

It is a benefit to each company who participates to ensure that the technology is unencumbered by patents. This makes the web platform a patent neutral technology.

This is more difficult for individuals to benefit from because individuals are not able to make their own web browsers, so individuals usually have to get full time paid jobs that pay them to work on these technologies. We’re working on making sure that more people from marginalized backgrounds are able to get paid to work on web standards.