01.13.08

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Quick Mention: ISO Receives Warning About Microsoft’s OpenAmbush XML

Posted in Deception, Microsoft, Open XML, Patents at 10:36 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

If it looks like a patent bomb, it probably is

An open letter that was sent to many in ISO contains a description along with pointers covering the patent time called OOXML. [via noooxml.org]

I have just send the following email to ISO members (you can find some of their email addresses on the INCTIS website) to warn them about the possible patent ambush…

This isn’t particularly new, but for those who study the issue, the letter will serve as a valuable resource and starting point.

Older articles of interest:

Patent licensing is probably the most important aspect for all third parties that want to implement or use the Open XML specification. Unfortunately the Ballot Resolution Meeting cannot discuss these aspects because only technical and editorial issues would get resolved.

[...]

When you have a patent which covers Open XML and you refuse to license it, the standard process gets stalled. Large companies in the standardization process are reluctant to use that nuke option. Given the ambush that the software patent practice means today it is quite possible that Open XML infringes a patent and all parties eventually have an obligation to license it.

“If OOXML goes through as an ISO standard, the IT industry, government and business will encumbered with a 6000-page specification peppered with potential patent liabilities” said NZOSS President Don Christie.

“Patent threats have already been used to spread doubt amongst organisations keen to take advantage of the benefits of open source. No one knows whether such claims have any merit, but it is calculated to deter the development and use of open and alternative toolsets.”

However, this raises the issue – what assurance does a developer have that such a large specification is not the subject of third party patent claims? The pedigree of the specification is certainly no reason for hope, Microsoft has been the target of third party patent claims for some time now including some high profile losses in patent suits. The fact that the specification has been developed behind closed doors and on a fast track means that there has been no adequate opportunity to evaluate the likelihood of third party patent claims against the specifications. The sheer size of the document suggests there will be at least a couple hiding in there somewhere.

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5 Comments

  1. John Drinkwater said,

    January 13, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Gravatar

    Hmm, not sure a generic patent “about XML” is a threat just to OOXML, if indeed it’s worth the paper it’s written on – because that would cover XHTML & ODF just as well. Though luckily not HTML, because that’s SGML derived :)

  2. Vexorian said,

    January 13, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    Gravatar

    John, What’s this patent “about XML” you are talking about? I couldn’t find it in the links.

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 14, 2008 at 3:44 am

    Gravatar

    John, this is being discussed here:

    http://groups.google.com/group/comp.os.linux.advocacy/msg/e226761c14822490?dmode=source

    Also see this:

    http://groups.google.com/group/comp.os.linux.advocacy/msg/1c3ecc3bf1aee92a?dmode=source

    In short, it’s a possible SCO in the oven. Microsoft can use a partner to create legal FUD and have CIOs scared of using ODF.

    LANCOR and those other companies that sue Apple and IBM in Europe are worth mentioning (this was discussed here recently). Also remember that whole DoubleClick/Google lobby campaign. All of these are recent stories. No smoking gun, but it’s no “perfect world” that we live in either, so we must keep our eyes open and look ahead at the possibilities.

  4. John Drinkwater said,

    January 15, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    Gravatar

    Vexorian,
    From the first link in the article: “While browsing the net, I found that one company named Scientigo was claiming 2 patents on XML:” He said so quite explicitly.

    Roy, I know exactly how they can use it. I’m just pointing out that by saying OOXML violates it, ODF would violate it too, yeah?

  5. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 15, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    Gravatar

    Yes, definitely. Quite hypothetically speaking, I can imagine a scenario down the road where Microsoft pays some patent troll that tried to sue for OOXML /and/ ODF. That would, potentially, put under pressure FOSS projects with ODF support. Microsoft tried similar tricks to divide ‘wealthy Linux’ from ‘community Linux’ — supposedly ‘protected’/legal versus the other. If you look at the Halloween Memos (a decade ago) you’ll see a clear plan to use patents against Linux. at least as a possibility. Not much has changed since. Microsoft is hurting a lot of the moment (beyond this site’s scope I’ll admit), so it’s ready to sling mud if necessary.

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