This is a first draft of guidance to working groups about making informed IPR decisions:
The IESG has recently received several questions about how working groups should discuss IPR disclosures when progressing drafts.
The purpose of IPR disclosures is to allow working groups to make informed decisions about affected work. The working groups and their participants are empowered to make document adoption and other decisions using all available information, including their understanding of the IPR situation. Section 8 of RFC 3979 (BCP 79), "Evaluating Alternative Technologies in IETF Working Groups”, has guidance that may be useful for the working group. Intellectual Property offers additional guidance on IPR disclosures, themselves.
Working groups are allowed and encouraged to discuss how to proceed with drafts that have IPR disclosures. While individuals can and will form their own opinions, working groups should not discuss the validity or applicability of the disclosed IPR, nor should they attempt to negotiate licensing terms.
Working group chairs can, if they consider it useful, ask for clarification of a disclosure to help participants inform their opinions. For example, a disclosure might be incomplete, or a very old disclosure might reference an unpublished patent application that may have become public in the interim. However, the discloser of the IPR is not obligated to respond.
There are a few actions that chairs and shepherds can take to help working groups make informed decisions and to help the community and the IESG understand those decisions. For example:
Chairs should ensure that participants are aware of IPR disclosures when making key decisions. Participants may need reminding about IPR disclosures from some time in the past. Chairs might remind participants about disclosures on a draft when discussing adoption and when announcing working-group last calls. Chairs should not rely solely on automated datatracker messages to inform the working group.
Chairs should ensure that the "replaces" field in the datatracker is entered correctly when adopting a draft. Draft adoption often involves a name change, and if the "replaces" information is not correct, the datatracker will not show IPR disclosures from pre-adoption versions of a draft, and fail to reference disclosures in IETF Last Call announcements.
The proto write up templates ask internet-draft shepherds to summarize disclosure-related working group discussions. Thorough answers will help avoid long discussion, delays, and other late surprises during IETF Last Call and the IESG evaluation process.