Is Microsoft Ready to Assert IP Rights over the Internet?

In the aftermath of Sender ID, some are concerned that Microsoft may use its vague IP claims over basic Internet protocols against other companies and open-source developers.

Has Microsoft been trying to retroactively claim IP (intellectual property) rights over many of the Internets basic protocols? Larry J. Blunk, senior engineer for networking research and development at Merit Network Inc., believes that might be the case.

Blunk expressed these concerns about Microsofts Royalty Free Protocol License Agreement in a recent note to the IETFs Intellectual Property Rights Working Group. Specifically, Blunk suggested that Microsoft seemed to be claiming IP rights to many vital Internet protocols. And by so doing, "Microsoft is injecting a significant amount of unwarranted uncertainty and doubt regarding non-Microsoft implementations of these protocols," Blunk said.

Blunk pointed out that Microsoft is claiming some form of IP rights over "a total of 130 protocols which Microsoft is offering for license."

"Many of the listed protocols are [IETF] RFC [request for comment] documents, including but not limited to the core TCP/IP v4 and TCP/IP v6 protocol specifications," he said in his note.

Some of the RFC protocols that Microsoft asserts that it may have IP rights over, such as the TCP/IP protocols and the DNS (Domain Name System), form the very bedrock of the Internets network infrastructure.

"Microsoft does not specify how this list of protocols was derived and to what extent they have investigated their possible rights holdings over these protocols," Blunk said. "The list appears to be a near but not completely exhaustive list of public protocols implemented in Microsoft products.

"It is quite likely that an individual or organization would be intimidated into signing the license agreement simply due to Microsofts vast financial and legal resources," he said. "Further, because Microsoft provides no reference to any proof of applicable rights holdings [such as patent numbers], it is impossible to ascertain whether Microsoft indeed has legitimate rights holdings."

Does Blunk, who is an engineer, have a legitimate point with his IP legal concerns? Several lawyers said they think he does.

Next Page: The Sender ID matter.