12.15.07

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Office Open XML (OOXML): Software Patents, Briberies, Binaries, O/S-dependent Bits

Posted in ECMA, Formats, ISO, Microsoft, Novell, Patents, Standard, Windows at 9:06 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Yesterday we wrote about patent traps in OOXML. To illustrate the severity of this issue, consider the following OOXML (Office Open XML) patent. Its description is: Word-processing document stored in a single XML file that may be manipulated by applications that understand XML. Here is the abstract:

A word processor including a native XML file format is provided. The well formed XML file fully represents the word-processor document, and fully supports 100% of word-processor’s rich formatting. There are no feature losses when saving the word-processor documents as XML. A published XSD file defines all the rules behind the word-processor’s XML file format. Hints may be provided within the XML associated files providing applications that understand XML a shortcut to understanding some of the features provided by the word-processor. The word-processing document is stored in a single XML file. Additionally, manipulation of word-processing documents may be done on computing devices that do not include the word-processor itself.

So, it would seem as though a fundamental part of OOXML is patented. Although Microsoft has made a pledge not to sue those using or implementing OOXML (with contradictions in deed), in order to implement this properly, it would have to function similarly to Microsoft Office 2007. Then, this particular patent would come into play: US7257772 (B1) [PDF]. As stated several times before, there is plenty of information about patent threats that Microsoft won’t talk about. It’s actually much worse. Consider many of the deficiencies and dead ends that are hidden somewhere among 6,000+ pages of poor specifications. For example, have a look at this comment that was posted by Andrew Mason a couple of weeks ago:

For OOXML to become a standard it is unacceptable to have OS dependant binary formats.

Here is another example:

Just-fix-it; however, there is an underlying problem here — the proposal is intimately tied to a particular implementation (by MS), and is impossible to implement, or even describe, without reference to it.

Thanks to an anonymous reader for the headsup on these.

This brings us to Novell. There will never be trust as long as a Vice President of theirs continues to push for acceptance of OOXML. Microsoft will continue to use Novell as ‘proof’ that OOXML is accepted by Free software users and developers. Miguel de Icaza, for example, rebuts those who advocate truly free and open standards. Stephane Rodriguez had this to say some months ago:

As for Miguel’s pseudo-rebuttal, perhaps it’s time to ask yourself two things :

1) Can you rebutt real examples? I think you can rebutt statements like “we are open and transparent”, but I don’t think you can rebutt real examples.

2) Miguel works for Microsoft (he thinks it’s a pride not to be officially on MS payroll, nevermind the bulk of Novell revenues are a direct influx from MS). But can you guess the retaliation if he said anything negative about this stuff? You have to admit it, he’s got no freedom in speech in that very area, plus Microsoft is using him as a tool to break the open source community apart.

As stated on numerous occasions in the past, Novell helps OOXML (it must) and it is therefore a threat to OpenDocument format. OOXML is just a tool for fighting ODF. It’s the same proprietary (and partly binary) format restructured. Its only momentum comes from briberies and other means of manipulation. Some of this manipulation is well documented, unlike OOXML which is not.

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10 Comments

  1. Robert said,

    December 15, 2007 at 10:00 pm

    Gravatar

    Yet despite Microsoft pledges, they continue filing patent applications related to XML. How can a company say they are “Opening” something, yet still pursue IP related to or for the purpose of extenting that “Opening”. In away, its negotiating in bad faith, and raises some doubt about thier sincerety: Here are some:

    PCT/US2006/034974
    PCT/US2007/001546
    PCT/US2006/046464
    PCT/US2006/043412
    PCT/US2006/036362
    PCT/US2006/021825

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 15, 2007 at 10:07 pm

    Gravatar

    Microsoft could (and almost definitely will) ‘extend’ that ECMA set of specifications and then issue patents relating to those extensions. It’s the same situation with Mono.

  3. Mickey said,

    December 16, 2007 at 6:23 am

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    On what basis do these patents cover OOXML, but not ODF, given both are XML wordprocessing formats?

  4. Heidegart Millnic said,

    December 16, 2007 at 6:26 am

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    Did you know that Red Hat also files patents? That by itself does mean little.

  5. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 16, 2007 at 8:13 am

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    Sun Microsystems and IBM have patents as well, but they are unlikely to assert them (defensive action aside). On the contrary, watch how Microsoft has resorted to what a Sun executive called ‘patent terrorism’. Microsoft even threatened OOo users.

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 16, 2007 at 8:19 am

    Gravatar

    Heidegart,

    About Red Hat patent, see Mark Webbink’s video interview here.

    More broadly, about Linux patents, see this.

  7. Andre said,

    December 25, 2007 at 8:37 am

    Gravatar

    http://www.dis29500.org/fi-0005/

  8. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 25, 2007 at 8:43 am

    Gravatar

    Thanks,

    I think I saw this comment some months ago. Other countries expressed similar concerns.

  9. Jeffrey said,

    January 9, 2008 at 7:16 am

    Gravatar

    Weirdly enough a lot of these patents could also apply to ODF and Microsoft can indeed use them against ODF implementations but not against OOXML implementations because of their reuirement to give up IP rights on standardising the format.
    So actually the patent rights of MS on XML based Office documents are far more dangerous when used against ODF implementations.
    Escpecially if OOXML beocmes an ISO standard there is little MS can do on OOXML with their patents. Existing standards case law shows that it is virtually impossible to claim IP rights on standards if the organisation was involved in the standardisation proces and did not invoke those rights at that time. So by putting OOXML up for ISO standardization and stating to give up IP rights via the OSP will give OOXML implementers a near rock solid confidence that the IP rights on the standard are free to be used no matter what.

    As far as extending the standard with propriety extensions goes. Those might theoretically be subject to IP rights but this would be much more the case if Microsoft were to extend ODF. This because ODF would need more propriety extensions to fit MS needs and because non of their existing IP rights are given up for ODF implementations anyways.

    Microsoft could easily extend ODF in such a way that OSS implementations would not be able to use it by for instance licensing the technology for free (for unfare competition requirement reasons) but in a way that is incompatible with GPL2 or GPL3.

    Microsoft adapting ODF (and thus nescesarily extending it to hold their technologies) could actually kill the format for open use by others and full interoperability.

  10. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 9, 2008 at 7:56 am

    Gravatar

    Jeffrey, Have a look at http://holloway.co.nz/can-other-vendors-implement-ooxml.html . Your arguments about patents are very easy to disagree with, using concrete proof. Bear in mind that Microsoft has a history of saber-rattling, even against OpenOffice.org users just 7-8 months ago. Steering away from .doc/.docx is therefore the best way to go.

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