Bonum Certa Men Certa

OOXML and Patent Traps

Patents transcend software, find file formats

As stated yesterday, Microsoft and ECMA refuse to accept comments on issues such as patent threats in OOXML (mind the Groklaw reference). Also, Microsoft has insisted that it will not sue developers, but at the same time it appears to be filing some OOXML-related patents. Regardless of Microsoft, there are several other issues to consider.

...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.


In these times of saber-rattling, including Microsoft's explicit threats which targeted OpenOffice.org, is it truly safe to fall for the patent trap that is OOXML? None of this is new (direct link), but new possibilities should explored, including lawsuits by proxy.

Regarding the voting process , you might want to take a peek at Rob Weir's latest analogy (no, no chefs this time).

...it is notable that participation was on an equal basis. No one was able to say, "I am a rich merchant, so I should be allowed to bring 5 pairs of my shoes and line them up in front of me". And certainly no one could say, "I am the King, the standard is determined by my foot and my foot alone". This is good, because the variation from King to King would tend to be much greater than the variation from different random samplings of 16 men.

When we talk about ISO meaning "equal" in Greek, and the concept of one-country, one-vote, I think of this picture.


Follow the links and watch the picture.

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