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Intellectual Property Rights

Defining characteristics of IETF standards include that they are freely available to view and read, and generally free to implement by anyone without permission or payment.

Developed through open processes, once a standard is published as an RFC, anyone can download and read it from the RFC Editor or IETF Datatracker websites. Further reproduction of whole RFCs (including translation into a language other than English) has been allowed and is encouraged. To indicate this, most RFCs include the standard phrase, “Distribution of this memo is unlimited”. The IETF’s rules on copyright issues, including use of extracts, are described in more detail in BCP 78.

During the standards process any IETF contribution covered by patents or patent applications owned by a participant or their sponsor must be disclosed, or they must refrain from participating. A contribution is any submission to the IETF that is intended for publication as all or part of an Internet-Draft or an RFC, or any statement made within the context of an IETF activity such as a working group discussion on a mailing list or during a meeting. BCP 79 provides a more complete description of how Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are handled in IETF standards processes. The IETF Datatracker maintains a list of IPR disclosures made to the IETF.

Beyond IETF RFCs, the IETF operates in an open and transparent fashion, publishing records of most of the contributions, submissions, statements and communications freely available. This includes mailing list archives, working group activity, and meeting proceedings.