Apple has released a statement supporting the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) policy that licensing for fundamental Web standards should be royalty-free.

The W3C opened its patent policy process for public dialogue on October 13, as it develops a new structure that would preserve Web-standard interoperability while offering developers the chance to recoup their investment in the development of intellectual properties.

Apple says such a policy is "essential to the continued interoperability and development of the Web". Apple reinforces the argument that the Web should be a common framework for the exchange of information. The company says: "Realization of this promise demands a licensing model that is open and unencumbered by private rights." The company also discusses its vision that W3C membership should involve collaboration to ensure standards are open and available to diverse users.

Technology rights The company accepts that various groups supporting Web standardization by contributing technology to it have "legitimate interests" in protecting the yield of their investments in such technologies. Not to have that would "ultimately discourage participation" in the W3C, Apple argues.

Apple adds: "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.

"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."

Protected standards Apple's argument goes further. In order to accomplish this, the working group would have to steer its recommendation clear of any unavailable patent rights. In cases where that's not possible, the working group may "have to cease its standardization activities in a particular area", Apple suggests. This would mean companies could opt to shift their protected standards out of the general operability standards managed by the W3C.

Apple claims: "In order to proliferate royalty-free Web standards, a member’s obligation to license essential patents could be conditioned on the grant of a reciprocal royalty-free license by any practitioner."

Apple argues that implementing such a system would replace the current W3C system for Web standards. Under current rules, the organization states a "preference" for royalty-free standards, but offers a means by which companies can use the "standardization process to control access to fundamental Web standards". Apple's proposal would apply a mandatory requirement for all W3C approved standards to be royalty-free.