Web Patents: Still Not a Good Idea

By eweek  |  Posted 2002-04-29 Print this article Print

We've argued before that critical web infrastructure needs to come without a patent-royalty price tag attached.

Weve argued before that critical web infrastructure needs to come without a patent-royalty price tag attached.

That battle was fought and won in the World Wide Web Consortium last year: The latest draft of the W3C patent policy, dated Feb. 26, 2002, states that the "W3C will not approve a Recommendation if it is aware that Essential Claims exist which are not available on Royalty-Free terms."

However, a number of key Web standards developers, most notably IBM and Microsoft, have now shifted some Web services standards development work away from the royalty-free W3C into new organizations that just happen to allow RAND (Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory) patent licensing.

For example, the UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration) 2.0 registry standard, edited by IBM and Microsoft, states needed patent rights will be RAND-licensed, not royalty-free.

Although the UDDI.org site states, "The oversight and leadership of UDDI will be turned over to a standards body in 2001 after the base technology is developed with wide industry support," its now 2002, UDDI 3.0 is in active development and no signs of the fist loosening are in evidence.

Moreover, on April 5, Microsoft, IBM and VeriSign released a new set of extensions to SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), the core Web services technology, to allow for secure Web service requests. Given that SOAP currently has no security features at all, the extensions in this WS-Security (Web Services Security) proposal are essential to all those interested in deploying Web services in production.

WS-Security 1.0 was released directly to the Web without the blessing of any standards body, even a newly manufactured one. It grants no intellectual property rights at all to third parties on a RAND basis or otherwise.

A shift of development away from the W3C is not good for anyone in the Internet community, and the recent end run around the W3C by Microsoft and IBM must stop.


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