The W3C should be commended for its adoption of a royalty-free patent policy for its standards. By requiring participants in the standards process to disclose essential patents and to commit to licensing them on a royalty-free basis, the policy helps keep the core of the Web free.
In order to promote the widest adoption of Web standards, W3C seeks to issue Recommendations that can be implemented on a Royalty-Free (RF) basis. Subject to the conditions of this policy, W3C will not approve a Recommendation if it is aware that Essential Claims exist which are not available on Royalty-Free terms.
Royalty-Free offers freedom in both monetary and non-monetary terms. The money part important, because it means the hobbyist, academic, or pre-financing entrepreneur can as readily implement the standard as big business. Non-monetary freedom -- the freedom to implement the standard without further implementations or restrictions, the freedom to interoperate -- is even more important, though. It enables implementers to develop their own uses for technology, possibly competing with those who patented it, potentially uses not envisioned by the claim's inventor, without asking permission.
The unpatented nature of the Web's basic protocols (notwithstanding various outlandish claims) has allowed an enormous range of innovation. Weblogs themselves build on this openness, and then fuel new tools like Technorati (and the new Technorati API), Blogdex, Blogshares, news aggregators, and more. Of course, open protocols are only part of the picture. We also need open content, but more on that later.