[whatwg] Patent Policy and Process

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Sun Jun 13 15:56:29 PDT 2004

On Sun, 13 Jun 2004, Jim Ley wrote:
> What is the structure of the Working Group, an informal collaboration of
> companies - if so which companies explicitly?  Currently it appears to
> be a proprietary Opera specification, it has an Opera editor, and he is
> all powerful, there's no requirement to address issues, or explain
> decisions. (I'm sure Ian would, but we still need a proper policy to
> have any faith for those of us who've not actually met the guy.)  Can we
> have tighter definitions of the process in the charter.

The charter is given on the Web site:


To answer your specific questions, the structure is two tier. The active
tier is this mailing list, the contributors being anyone who sends
comments on the mailing list, those comments being taken into account by
the spec's editor (myself, at the moment) with all feedback being
responded to. At the moment I am responding to all feedback
chronologically and have responded to any comments sent up to last
Thursday, not inclusive. (If I haven't replied to someone's comment which
was sent before last Thursday, I must have accidentally deleted it. Please
resend such comments and I will be sure to reply to them.)

The second, passive tier is the "members", a small group consisting of
representatives from browser vendors (the exact list of who is in this
group is on the charter page given above). These members have the final
say on what goes in the specification, and on when the specification hits
its various milestones. I personally only have one vote in this group, so
I'm obviously not all-powerful. :-)

The organisations that were explicitly named at the announcement of this
group were Opera Software and the Mozilla Foundation. However, WHATWG does
not operate on the basis of organisations or companies at this time, it
behaves in terms of individual members.

According to the charter, all issues raised in this mailing list should be
addressed. I have been doing this so far. I have also attempted to explain
all decisions that have been queried; please feel free to ask any
questions if there is anything that isn't clear.

> The Web Forms 2.0 specification is copyright a particular browser vendor
> (not even the Working Group)  Please could you clarify the status of the
> specification, is it a proprietary Opera specifcation, or what?

The copyright status of the specification is that it is copyright Opera
Software. This is because an Opera employee has been the sole editor of
the spec and WHATWG cannot legally own any copyrights as it is not a legal

The specification is open, thus not proprietary. It is not a formal
standard either. It's just a draft of a proposal that is being developed
openly in this mailing list based directly on input from anyone who wishes
to e-mail this list.

> What is the process for tracking Errata,

At this time there is no process for tracking errata since there is no
finished document. This will be addressed once it becomes an issue. (We
haven't looked at this yet since it is not yet clear how the specification
will be published once it is "finished", and thus we can't know what an
appropriate errata process would be.)

> and changes in the document

Once a snapshop of the document has been published, that is, once the
first milestone has been reached, we will be publishing continuously
updated HTML diffs of the differences between the last snapshot and the
latest working draft.

> for answering implementation issues

Any issues should be raised on this mailing list, whether design, author,
or implementation issues, and all will be addressed in the same manner.

> how are flaws in the test-suite resolved (interopability is defined by
> the test-suite not the specification.)

There is no test suite yet so this has not yet been addressed.

> Are features sections or subsection
> - ie do you require 2 full interopable implementations of every section
> - IE you need two full implementations of "Section 5.0 Form submission"
> - Something I would love to see, but not something that's going to
> happen in any reasonable timeframe unless you hobble the test-suite, and
> seems rather against the aims.

This is fully defined in the charter, which I won't quote here due to its
length. However, as far as I can tell it does address your wish above.

> What intellectual property do the organisations have in the various
> areas, what licensing terms would that IP be made available to others
> on?

No announcement regarding patents has yet been made. This is being studied
by the members at the moment. It's likely that the royalty free version of
the W3C patent policy will be used wholesale.

> What does "shipping" and "unofficial" mean w.r.t. to implementations -
> is a beta release of Opera shipping or development,

Development (that's what "beta" means).

> is an extension to IE official or unofficial?

Official (it's the extension that is the user agent, and if the
extension's vendor says a certain build is official, then it is official).

> How distinct do implementations need to be before considered valid to be
> one of the 2 (ie Opera on Symbian 60 and Opera on Windows would be 1 or
> 2 implementations, equally Mac IE and Win32 IE.)

Opera is the same codebase on all operating platforms and is therefore one
implementation. MacIE and WinIE are different codebases and therefore two

> What is the archival process on the mailing list etc.  If I decide I no
> longer wish my copyright material to be included for example, how do I
> remove it?

Ask me (ian at hixie.ch).

> how long does the WG undertake to provide the archive?

No guarentee is given. Contributors are encouraged to make their own
private copies if they require long term availability of the archives.

> Will you solicit approval from contributors for other groups to archive
> the mailing list and specifications to ensure continuation?

No policy on this matter has been decided at this time.

If there is anything in the above explanation that is not well explained
in the charter, let me know, and I'll ask the members if we can update the
charter to be clearer.

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'

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