Will a Sun patent burn XPointer?
19:37, 9 Jan 2001 UTC | Simon St.Laurent

Since Elliotte Rusty Harold recommended "complete rejection of this specification until such time as Sun's patent can be dealt with more reasonably," the XML-dev mailing list has been discussing the licensing terms for the patent.

Daniel Veillard, who chaired XPointer meetings on the subject, noted that "We can't chase them all and if we did we would make no progress every effort would be wasted doing those Patent lookups and fighting them :-(((," though he clearly had little sympathy for the patent itself.

Tim Bray described the situation as "a big problem," suggesting that:

"The responsible thing for Sun to do would be to issue an official declaration that the patent has no standing in respect of XPointer, and that to the extent that it does, Sun grants an unrestricted, free, license to anyone to implement and use it without incurring any obligations of any kind on account of the patent. Were they to do this, they'd deserve our praise."

Otherwise, he was concerned that it might be "XPointer, D.O.A."

Len Bullard cited prior art from Unisys and the US Army Missile Command, and noted that "The US Army might prove to be a tough problem for Sun lawyers. Civil servants are relentless customers."

Eve Maler, an editor of the XPointer spec who works for Sun, noted that:

"this situation existed long before I joined Sun or became a co-chair. For the record, I "recused" myself and let Daniel take on sole chairmanship duties whenever the Working Group discussed this matter"

Ben Trafford, developing "an open source XLink/XPointer-inclusive product," suggested that "their patent in this regard is unsupportable, at about the same level as Microsoft's much-reviled patent on the concept of stylesheets."

Trafford encouraged list members to "to send mail to Sun's legal department via the links Eve has so thoughtfully provided," and concluded that "I think Sun will get the message -- and if not, they can sue me, and a whole bunch of other folks. I rather expect they'd lose."

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Re: Will a Sun patent burn XPointer? (Rick Jelliffe - 13:00, 10 Jan 2001)

I find it very fustrating to see simple uses of standards subverted in this way. When we make standards (ISO, IETF, even W3C) surely it is to make technology available to people, not to merely provide a fresh crop of ideas for bandits to plunder.

This is a kind of nibbling away at hypertext: they cannot patent scrolling, nor retrieval, nor client-side processing, nor hypertext, nor searching for text, nor system identifiers which contain unpacking/locating instructions (e.g. ISO Formal System Identifiers), nor user activation, nor a link going to a range, nor a link displaying a range of text (as in Ted Neilson's ideas).

What is left to own? Sun should be ashamed. Fortunately, Linux is good enough for many server purposes that boycotting Sun and other companies with patents that attempt to hijack open standards may be a fair option for many of us. I think people of good will should serious think about preparing to participate in such boycots, even of the "blot in dot com". Sun would do well in the PR department to publically foreswear all dubious patents.

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