Friday, July 15, 2011

Patents vs standards-setting organizations

If you aren't sure if "software" patents affect your every day life, let me ask you a simple question: Do you use the web? You're using it right now to read this blog post. You probably even use Facebook, or Google, or visit other news web sites. Web sites are all built on standards. For example: "HTML" is one standard that defines how pages are put together, so web browsers can interpret them correctly.

In an earlier post about patents and standards-setting organizations, Xiph made these comments to the FTC Patent Standards Workshop about how patents affect open standards:
However, patents essential to the implementation of a standard gain their value from network effects. The innovation often plays no role. This gives the holder of such a patent the ability to hinder or eliminate entire markets which would compete with their own offerings.
Yet we see an example of this today, with the World Wide Web Consortium ("W3C") chastising Apple on "software" patents related to HTML version 5. From the article:
The patented technologies are core components to the W3C's Widget Access Request Policy, which specifies how mobile applications can request sensitive material. It is one of a number of specifications that are closely tied to the W3C's next generation standard for Web pages and applications, HTML5.
At issue:
  • patent 7,743,336, which covers "widget" security
  • patent application 20070101146, which covers access control procedures
The W3C has set up a page asking to help identify prior art, so they can invalidate the Apple patents.

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