W3C vs. OASIS patent policies

At last week's Digital ID conference, Phil Windley gave an excellent overview of a number of base technologies, including SAML and XACML, two OASIS standards. Cory Doctorow suggested that these are OASIS rather than W3C standards because the OASIS patent policy doesn't encourage patent disclosure and royalty-free licensing as vigorously as the W3C patent policy now does.

Phil didn't have an immediate answer and, after rereading the two policies, neither do I. They are superficially similar but, of course, I am not a lawyer. I do note that, in the case of XACML, approval was delayed -- according to OASIS' Karl Best -- until the technical committee convinced itself that there wasn't going to be a patent hitch:

The XACML TC has taken reasonable steps to ensure and to document that all features of this language are derived from previous work in the field that is not under patent restrictions. We intentionally made one feature of the language - Obligations - not mandatory to implement in order to make it easier for implementations to avoid a particular feature that might, in some cases, infringe on a known IP claim.

It is the belief of the TC that useful and fully-compliant implementations of XACML 1.0 can be created that are royalty free. The TC therefore requests that OASIS adopt the XACML 1.0 specification as submitted." [OASIS xacml mailing list]

Still, Cory raises an interesting point. I haven't seen a side-by-side legal analysis of the W3C and OASIS policies, nor of the motivations vendors have for aligning with one or the other. Comments and pointers are welcome.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2003/10/20.html#a827