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Is there a patent on XML itself?

P: n/a
If the W3C created the XML standard, did they apply for a patent on it?
The only thing I can find on the W3C site is their policy about freely
licensing any patented technology related to a standard.

I know all about Microsoft trying to patent every possible thing you
could do with an XML file. I don't really want to go off on that tangent.
Right now, I am just trying to figure out if there is a patent on the XML
standard itself and, if so, who owns it.
Mar 31 '07 #1
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28 Replies


P: n/a
Grant Robertson wrote:
If the W3C created the XML standard, did they apply for a patent on it?
The only thing I can find on the W3C site is their policy about freely
licensing any patented technology related to a standard.

I know all about Microsoft trying to patent every possible thing you
could do with an XML file. I don't really want to go off on that tangent.
Right now, I am just trying to figure out if there is a patent on the XML
standard itself and, if so, who owns it.
XML (the concept, ie the standard) is neither software nor hardware, and
as far as I know it is therefore not patentable. I know that won't stop
the USPO allowing someone to patent it, but we'll cross that bridge when
we come to it.

///Peter
--
XML FAQ: http://xml.silmaril.ie/
Apr 1 '07 #2

P: n/a
In article <57*************@mid.individual.net>, pe********@m.silmaril.ie
says...
XML (the concept, ie the standard) is neither software nor hardware, and
as far as I know it is therefore not patentable. I know that won't stop
the USPO allowing someone to patent it, but we'll cross that bridge when
we come to it.
The Open Document Format standard is neither software or hardware and it
has a patent. So does Dell's business process. There is no requirement
that something be software or hardware for there to be a patent.

I'm not looking for arguments or speculation as to whether it logically
should or should not have a patent. I just want to know if anyone knows
for sure whether it does or does not have a patent.

Thank you.
Apr 1 '07 #3

P: n/a
Grant Robertson wrote:
In article <57*************@mid.individual.net>, pe********@m.silmaril.ie
says...
>XML (the concept, ie the standard) is neither software nor hardware, and
as far as I know it is therefore not patentable. I know that won't stop
the USPO allowing someone to patent it, but we'll cross that bridge when
we come to it.

The Open Document Format standard is neither software or hardware and it
has a patent. So does Dell's business process. There is no requirement
that something be software or hardware for there to be a patent.
Sorry, my fault: I was just doing something else with software patents
when I read the post, and I meant XML is not patentable as a piece of
software. You can indeed patent anything you like in the USA, regardless
of whether it makes sense to or not. Patents can also be used
defensively, to prevent others less scrupulous from patenting ideas not
theirs.
I'm not looking for arguments or speculation as to whether it logically
should or should not have a patent. I just want to know if anyone knows
for sure whether it does or does not have a patent.
I've never heard of one, but in the current circumstances I don't think
anyone is in a position to certify that it does or does not have a patent.

///Peter
Apr 1 '07 #4

P: n/a
In article <57*************@mid.individual.net>, pe********@m.silmaril.ie
says...
I meant XML is not patentable as a piece of
software. You can indeed patent anything you like in the USA, regardless
of whether it makes sense to or not. Patents can also be used
defensively, to prevent others less scrupulous from patenting ideas not
theirs.
That is the very reason I am asking. I am inventing an XML standard and
am trying to decide if I should go to the trouble and expense of
patenting it. My main reason for doing so would be to prevent the likes
of Microsoft from "embracing and extending" my standard in order to kill
it or steal it.
I've never heard of one, but in the current circumstances I don't think
anyone is in a position to certify that it does or does not have a patent.
Thanks for the info. Something tells me that there wouldn't be such a
brouhaha over who owns patents to XML if W3C had crafted a well designed
patent when they first invented XML years ago.
Apr 1 '07 #5

P: n/a
in message <MP************************@news.newsguy.com>, Grant Robertson
('b****@bogus.invalid') wrote:
In article <57*************@mid.individual.net>, pe********@m.silmaril.ie
says...
>I meant XML is not patentable as a piece of
software. You can indeed patent anything you like in the USA, regardless
of whether it makes sense to or not. Patents can also be used
defensively, to prevent others less scrupulous from patenting ideas not
theirs.

That is the very reason I am asking. I am inventing an XML standard and
am trying to decide if I should go to the trouble and expense of
patenting it.
Absolutely not - in your own interest. Before the Web, there were dozens of
perfectly good distributed hypertext systems. Only problem - they were all
proprietary and so none of them got traction. If you overprotect
your 'invention', no-one will use it.

People think Tim Berners Lee was foolish for 'giving away' the Web. But all
the inventors of the Web's predecessors are now marginal or out of
business all together, whereas Sir Tim has his knighthood, a great deal of
respect and influence in the community, and a very nice salary, thank you.

It's better to have a little bit of something very big than the whole of
something very small.
My main reason for doing so would be to prevent the likes
of Microsoft from "embracing and extending" my standard in order to kill
it or steal it.
They'll only try if it gets traction - and if you patent it it will never
get traction.
Thanks for the info. Something tells me that there wouldn't be such a
brouhaha over who owns patents to XML if W3C had crafted a well designed
patent when they first invented XML years ago.
But no-one would be using XML if they had. XML is only a prolix syntax for
S-Expressions, and S-Expressions, though very flexible, are not the only
flexible expression of data. If XML were encumbered with patents, we'd all
be using something different.

--
si***@jasmine.org.uk (Simon Brooke) http://www.jasmine.org.uk/~simon/

IMHO, there aren't enough committed Christians, but that's care
in the community for you. -- Ben Evans

Apr 2 '07 #6

P: n/a
In article <9f************@gododdin.internal.jasmine.org.uk >,
si***@jasmine.org.uk says...
in message <MP************************@news.newsguy.com>, Grant Robertson
('b****@bogus.invalid') wrote:
I am inventing an XML standard and
am trying to decide if I should go to the trouble and expense of
patenting it.

Absolutely not - in your own interest. Before the Web, there were dozens of
perfectly good distributed hypertext systems. Only problem - they were all
proprietary and so none of them got traction. If you overprotect
your 'invention', no-one will use it.
I'm sorry, I didn't mention that I also intend to license the standard
freely in accordance with the W3C's patent policy. The only restriction I
would place on the license would be that no one could extend the standard
without going through the standards body. No one would be allowed to
"embrace and extend" for proprietary purposes as Microsoft is fond of
doing.

Here are some articles that deal with the issue of patents and standards:

http://www-03.ibm.com/developerworks...page/BobSutor?
entry=grading_open_standards_what_does

http://stephesblog.blogs.com/my_webl...tandards_.html
I agree that HTML probably wouldn't have taken off like it did if there
were restrictions on how it could be extended. But then HTML was pretty
simple and rather lame back then. Most people had never heard of a markup
language at the time. That was then, this is now. Markup languages are
big business and there are lots of sharks and submarines in the waters
looking to score big by claiming rights to something that isn't properly
protected. The Open Document Format standard is patented by Sun with a
free license and most of the rest of the world is working on adopting it.
But since it is protected, Microsoft can't "embrace and extend" it so
they have to resort to issuing a competing standard that no one is paying
attention to.

So, I believe the factors that currently foster adoption are:

1) Free, as in beer.

2) Flexibility.

3) Controlled by an independent, non-commercial standards body.

4) Protected from unauthorized, proprietary "extension."

People think Tim Berners Lee was foolish for 'giving away' the Web. But all
the inventors of the Web's predecessors are now marginal or out of
business all together, whereas Sir Tim has his knighthood, a great deal of
respect and influence in the community, and a very nice salary, thank you.
Exactly. I keep telling my friends that Linus Torvolds hasn't made a
penny from licensing Linux, but he always has a job. Now, whether Linux
is patented or not, I don't know. So it may be a bad analogy.

It's better to have a little bit of something very big than the whole of
something very small.
Also, what I have said many times. All I want is to earn a modest salary
as an employee of the non-profit promoting the standard. You know the W3C
is not an all volunteer operation, after all.

They'll only try if it gets traction - and if you patent it it will never
get traction.
Thanks for the info. Something tells me that there wouldn't be such a
brouhaha over who owns patents to XML if W3C had crafted a well designed
patent when they first invented XML years ago.

But no-one would be using XML if they had. XML is only a prolix syntax for
S-Expressions, and S-Expressions, though very flexible, are not the only
flexible expression of data. If XML were encumbered with patents, we'd all
be using something different.
I don't agree with that logic but that is just my opinion. Crayola
patented their crayons but you can still draw lots of pretty pictures
with them. If the patents are licensed for free, with no restrictions on
how the technology can be used, then there is nothing stopping anyone
from building new patents based on the technology, or just making up new
inventions or standards based on the other patent and never patenting
that new part. Just as there is nothing stopping anyone from extending an
unpatented, prior-art and patenting the extension or improvement. Almost
no patents are on entirely new things with no prior art. The patent only
covers what is new and different. If the owner of the new patent wants to
do anything with their new technology then they must have rights to use
the prior art. This is achieved either through licensing existing patents
or simply using the unpatented, prior-art for free.

If I patent my standard, I will be able to license it for free. But I
will also be able to place restrictions on that license. I can say it is
free only so long as you don't attempt to "embrace and extend" the
standard for proprietary purposes. This is the best of both worlds.
Apr 2 '07 #7

P: n/a
in message <MP************************@news.newsguy.com>, Grant Robertson
('b****@bogus.invalid') wrote:
In article <9f************@gododdin.internal.jasmine.org.uk >,
si***@jasmine.org.uk says...
>People think Tim Berners Lee was foolish for 'giving away' the Web. But
all the inventors of the Web's predecessors are now marginal or out of
business all together, whereas Sir Tim has his knighthood, a great deal
of respect and influence in the community, and a very nice salary, thank
you.

Exactly. I keep telling my friends that Linus Torvolds hasn't made a
penny from licensing Linux, but he always has a job. Now, whether Linux
is patented or not, I don't know. So it may be a bad analogy.
Of course it's not. How could it be? It started out as the apolitical son
of communists in a socialist country deliberately reverse engineering an
existing system - UN*X. It's now significantly different from UN*X in some
interesting ways, and some people claim to have patents on many parts of
it (see for example the ongoing IBM/SCO/Novell litigation). None of these
can or will stop Linux.
Thanks for the info. Something tells me that there wouldn't be such a
brouhaha over who owns patents to XML if W3C had crafted a well
designed patent when they first invented XML years ago.

But no-one would be using XML if they had. XML is only a prolix syntax
for S-Expressions, and S-Expressions, though very flexible, are not the
only flexible expression of data. If XML were encumbered with patents,
we'd all be using something different.

I don't agree with that logic but that is just my opinion. Crayola
patented their crayons but you can still draw lots of pretty pictures
with them.
And you can buy other crayons from other people. A crayon is not a
standard. A standard is something used by a community of independent and
in many cases competing and even hostile bodies in order to allow them to
interact; consequently, a standard does not work unless it has effective
monopoly. Many standards - even many variations on the same standard
(RS232) - are equivalent to no standard.
If the patents are licensed for free, with no restrictions on
how the technology can be used, then there is nothing stopping anyone
from building new patents based on the technology, or just making up new
inventions or standards based on the other patent and never patenting
that new part. Just as there is nothing stopping anyone from extending an
unpatented, prior-art and patenting the extension or improvement. Almost
no patents are on entirely new things with no prior art. The patent only
covers what is new and different. If the owner of the new patent wants to
do anything with their new technology then they must have rights to use
the prior art. This is achieved either through licensing existing patents
or simply using the unpatented, prior-art for free.

If I patent my standard, I will be able to license it for free. But I
will also be able to place restrictions on that license. I can say it is
free only so long as you don't attempt to "embrace and extend" the
standard for proprietary purposes. This is the best of both worlds.
I think you are deluding yourself. In most of the world, software patents
are illegal anyway (as they should be). In the US, where they're not
illegal, as you yourself say the people likely to 'embrace and extend' a
successful standard are Microsoft. Do you think you could afford a battle
with Microsoft in the US courts? How many billion dollars could you
personally afford to pay your lawyers?

--
si***@jasmine.org.uk (Simon Brooke) http://www.jasmine.org.uk/~simon/
"This young man has not the faintest idea how socialists think and does
not begin to understand the mentality of the party he has been elected
to lead. He is quite simply a liberal"
-- Ken Coates MEP (Lab) of Tony Blair

Apr 3 '07 #8

P: n/a
In article <r7************@gododdin.internal.jasmine.org.uk >,
si***@jasmine.org.uk says...
I think you are deluding yourself. In most of the world, software patents
are illegal anyway (as they should be). In the US, where they're not
illegal, as you yourself say the people likely to 'embrace and extend' a
successful standard are Microsoft. Do you think you could afford a battle
with Microsoft in the US courts? How many billion dollars could you
personally afford to pay your lawyers?
Technically, this wouldn't be a software patent. It would be a process
patent. If patents on standards were worthless, do you think Sun would
have patented Open Document Format? Perhaps. Big companies patent how
many steps it took to get down the hall today, just in case.

I wouldn't battle Microsoft in the courts. I would battle them in the
public press. I would shame Bill Gates for trying to monopolize education
and profit from the suffering of the poor. I would also write his wife a
letter asking her to appeal to what little conscience he has left.

Besides, are you saying that I should never try to protect intellectual
property just because someone like Bill Gates could steal it if they
wanted to? If that were the case then we might as well just stop
inventing anything and let Microsoft and IBM do it all.

If I don't protect the standard then I will have more than Microsoft to
deal with. I will then have to deal with every shyster with a lawyer
trying to horn in on my invention.

I want to give it away for free. But, in order to do that, I have to
ensure that it will stay free.
Apr 4 '07 #9

P: n/a
gg
but is a published process like the xml standard patentable?
"Grant Robertson" <bo***@bogus.invalidwrote in message
news:MP************************@news.newsguy.com.. .
In article <r7************@gododdin.internal.jasmine.org.uk >,
si***@jasmine.org.uk says...
I think you are deluding yourself. In most of the world, software
patents
are illegal anyway (as they should be). In the US, where they're not
illegal, as you yourself say the people likely to 'embrace and extend' a
successful standard are Microsoft. Do you think you could afford a
battle
with Microsoft in the US courts? How many billion dollars could you
personally afford to pay your lawyers?

Technically, this wouldn't be a software patent. It would be a process
patent. If patents on standards were worthless, do you think Sun would
have patented Open Document Format? Perhaps. Big companies patent how
many steps it took to get down the hall today, just in case.

I wouldn't battle Microsoft in the courts. I would battle them in the
public press. I would shame Bill Gates for trying to monopolize education
and profit from the suffering of the poor. I would also write his wife a
letter asking her to appeal to what little conscience he has left.

Besides, are you saying that I should never try to protect intellectual
property just because someone like Bill Gates could steal it if they
wanted to? If that were the case then we might as well just stop
inventing anything and let Microsoft and IBM do it all.

If I don't protect the standard then I will have more than Microsoft to
deal with. I will then have to deal with every shyster with a lawyer
trying to horn in on my invention.

I want to give it away for free. But, in order to do that, I have to
ensure that it will stay free.

Apr 4 '07 #10

P: n/a
in message <MP************************@news.newsguy.com>, Grant Robertson
('b****@bogus.invalid') wrote:
I want to give it away for free. But, in order to do that, I have to
ensure that it will stay free.
Seriously, if you want that, the solution is one of:

The GPL <URL:http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html- not designed for this
sort of thing, but with real legal teeth.

GNU Free Documentation License <URL:http://www.gnu.org/licenses/fdl.html-
designed for this sort of thing, and with the firepower of the FSF behind
it.

Creative Commons <URL:http://creativecommons.org/- pick-n-mix licensing
which should do more or less what you want but legally less tested.

--
si***@jasmine.org.uk (Simon Brooke) http://www.jasmine.org.uk/~simon/

;; Usenet: like distance learning without the learning.
Apr 4 '07 #11

P: n/a
In article <cv************@gododdin.internal.jasmine.org.uk >,
si***@jasmine.org.uk says...
in message <MP************************@news.newsguy.com>, Grant Robertson
('b****@bogus.invalid') wrote:
I want to give it away for free. But, in order to do that, I have to
ensure that it will stay free.

Seriously, if you want that, the solution is one of:

The GPL <URL:http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html- not designed for this
sort of thing, but with real legal teeth.
I have been considering this. I haven't had time to really study either
GPL v2 or GPL v3 to see if it would really meet my needs. Remember, a
standard is not code. So many aspects of GPL would not apply

GNU Free Documentation License <URL:http://www.gnu.org/licenses/fdl.html-
designed for this sort of thing, and with the firepower of the FSF behind
it.
Creative Commons <URL:http://creativecommons.org/- pick-n-mix licensing
which should do more or less what you want but legally less tested.
Nor is a standard simple documentation. Neither of these would apply. I
have been told by an IP expert that copyright only protects the text of
the code not the algorithm. In this case, it would only protect the text
of the documentation of the standard, not the ideas and principles of the
standard.
Apr 4 '07 #12

P: n/a
In article <cv************@gododdin.internal.jasmine.org.uk >,
si***@jasmine.org.uk says...
in message <MP************************@news.newsguy.com>, Grant Robertson
('b****@bogus.invalid') wrote:
I want to give it away for free. But, in order to do that, I have to
ensure that it will stay free.

Seriously, if you want that, the solution is one of:

The GPL <URL:http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html- not designed for this
sort of thing, but with real legal teeth.
I finally found a great reference about this issue, and it supports your
suggestions. Take a look at...

http://lists.xml.org/archives/xml-de...8/pdf00000.pdf

....paying particular attention to section V.D. starting on page 9. This
paper specifically addresses my concerns about as exactly as if I had
written them myself. The paper is written as a report from an XML.org
working group called Legal-XML which was formed to create XML standards
for the transmission of legal documents. Heck, if those guys don't know
about protecting the intellectual property of XML standards then no one
does.

So, I guess this about settles it. My notion of patenting the standard,
though legally possible, was unnecessary. It appears that *a* GPL will do
just fine. I don't know if the GNU GPL will exactly meet my needs but at
least I now know I won't have to go to the expense of getting a patent.

Thanks for all your suggestions and patience. Many get pretty religious
on this issue and won't take the time to explain themselves civilly.
Apr 5 '07 #13

P: n/a
in message <MP************************@news.newsguy.com>, Grant Robertson
('b****@bogus.invalid') wrote:
In article <cv************@gododdin.internal.jasmine.org.uk >,
si***@jasmine.org.uk says...
>in message <MP************************@news.newsguy.com>, Grant
Robertson ('b****@bogus.invalid') wrote:
I want to give it away for free. But, in order to do that, I have to
ensure that it will stay free.

Seriously, if you want that, the solution is one of:

The GPL <URL:http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html- not designed for
this sort of thing, but with real legal teeth.

I finally found a great reference about this issue, and it supports your
suggestions. Take a look at...

http://lists.xml.org/archives/xml-de...8/pdf00000.pdf

...paying particular attention to section V.D. starting on page 9. This
paper specifically addresses my concerns about as exactly as if I had
written them myself. The paper is written as a report from an XML.org
working group called Legal-XML which was formed to create XML standards
for the transmission of legal documents. Heck, if those guys don't know
about protecting the intellectual property of XML standards then no one
does.

So, I guess this about settles it. My notion of patenting the standard,
though legally possible, was unnecessary. It appears that *a* GPL will do
just fine. I don't know if the GNU GPL will exactly meet my needs but at
least I now know I won't have to go to the expense of getting a patent.
There is only one GPL - the G stands for 'GNU', which in turn stands
for 'Gnu is Not UNIX'. There are, however, different versions of the GPL.
V2 is the one in common current use and is so legally fierce that no-one
has yet dared seriously challenge it in court. V3 is currently in draft
and promises to be even fiercer.

FWIW I release all the code I make my living from under GPL V2.

--
si***@jasmine.org.uk (Simon Brooke) http://www.jasmine.org.uk/~simon/

There are no messages. The above is just a random stream of
bytes. Any opinion or meaning you find in it is your own creation.

Apr 5 '07 #14

P: n/a
In article <cv************@gododdin.internal.jasmine.org.uk >,
Simon Brooke <si***@jasmine.org.ukwrote:
>I want to give it away for free. But, in order to do that, I have to
ensure that it will stay free.
>Seriously, if you want that, the solution is one of:

The GPL <URL:http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html- not designed for this
sort of thing, but with real legal teeth.
Regardless of whether the GPL is appropriate for protecting a
specification, the OP apparently wants to prevent others from
extending his work, which is contrary to the spirit of the GPL. While
I sympathise with the aim of preventing the likes of Microsoft from
"embracing and extending", doing this by restricting what ordinary
users can do would certainly put me off using it.

A less extreme approach is to have the definition require that
non-conformant documents not be accepted. This is what XML does, so
that (for example) an extension that allowed </end tags would not be
able to claim conformance with the XML specification.

-- Richard
--
"Consideration shall be given to the need for as many as 32 characters
in some alphabets" - X3.4, 1963.
Apr 5 '07 #15

P: n/a
In article <ba************@gododdin.internal.jasmine.org.uk >,
si***@jasmine.org.uk says...
There is only one GPL - the G stands for 'GNU', which in turn stands
for 'Gnu is Not UNIX'. There are, however, different versions of the GPL.
V2 is the one in common current use and is so legally fierce that no-one
has yet dared seriously challenge it in court. V3 is currently in draft
and promises to be even fiercer.
I figured out that every one refers to "The General Public License" as if
it were the only general public license, so I guess that term has become
a de facto name for the "GNU General Public License." So the "G" in
"GPL" stands for "General" not "GNU." The "G" in "GNU" stands for GNU. If
you don't believe me just check out www.gnu.org. Anyway that is a minor
point.

I have also been doing a lot of research lately. Many commentators,
especially lawyers in the software licensing field working FOR open
source causes, seem to feel that all of the open source licenses (to use
the more general term) are on a bit of shaky ground exactly because the
concept has never been tested in court. The shrink-wrap licenses have
been upheld in court but that may be because they are on paper and the
software installation disk is a physical object. Enforcing a license
against someone who never entered into a legal contract just because they
modified some code hasn't been tested as far as I could find. If you have
some case law to cite I would love to see it. Keep in mind, I am not
arguing against open source licensing. I am just saying it may or may not
have as many teeth as advocates give it credit for.

After having read through a couple dozen licenses, the GPL does not seem
to be nearly as accurate of a legal document as many others I have seen.
Precise legal phrasing is there for a reason, just like clean coding
practices are there for a reason. Even if it looks the same to non-
professionals, it may not work out as well in the end. With all the non-
precise language and excessive explanations and examples in the GPL, they
have actually left MORE room for misinterpretation. That is just the way
it works with legal documents. No, I am not a lawyer, but I have heard
and read this point explained by many lawyers.

I personally suspect that the major companies like Microsoft haven't
directly challenged the GPL or any other open source license because they
fear it would invalidate their shrink-wrap licenses. After all, no one
signed anything and people really just made up the idea of claiming that
someone entered into a contract just by opening a package. I think they
made it up hoping it would get traction just from common use. Eventually
it did but, in the beginning, many doubted their legitimacy.

It would probably be better if there were a legal challenge to the GPL.
Then the open source community would either have set a precedent, if GPL
won, or learned what needs to be fixed, if GPL lost. I don't think a loss
would kill open source. It would just teach people that they can't just
make up these licenses will-nilly and expect them to hold up in court.
They must get real lawyers involved and create legally precise documents.

FWIW I release all the code I make my living from under GPL V2.
Now I know I am going way off topic for this newsgroup but I am curious.
The money you make from writing that code is that paid to you by a
company? So, if you are working for a company then it is the company that
is releasing the software under GPL, correct. So, you are making a living
just writing code, whether or not that code is profitable. It could be
that your company is loosing money hand over fist because they haven't
figured out how to make money using the open source model. Or they are
making a fortune on support. I don't know. But in that case, you are
making money from writing code, not from releasing software under GPL.

On the other hand, if you are working for yourself, could you please tell
me how you are actually making a living by writing code and giving it
away. I'm not arguing. I am genuinely curious.

I suspect that the open source business model can only work for companies
who are big enough to do the marketing it takes to convince people to pay
for support. Even Linus Torvolds has to have a job somewhere where
someone is willing to pay him money to work on Linux. As an individual,
even he isn't "big" enough to make money releasing code as open source.
Again, not arguing against. Just making an observation.
Apr 6 '07 #16

P: n/a
In article <ev***********@pc-news.cogsci.ed.ac.uk>,
ri*****@cogsci.ed.ac.uk says...
Regardless of whether the GPL is appropriate for protecting a
specification, the OP apparently wants to prevent others from
extending his work, which is contrary to the spirit of the GPL. While
I sympathise with the aim of preventing the likes of Microsoft from
"embracing and extending", doing this by restricting what ordinary
users can do would certainly put me off using it.
Actually, I am trying to keep anyone from extending the standard OUTSIDE
OF THE OFFICIAL STANDARDS PROCESS.

Please see http://www.opensource.org/osr-rationale on the Open software
Initiative's web site. About a third of the way down the page you will
find the following quote.

"Some seek to burnish the perception of their products or technologies by
claiming that they implement "open standards" while at the same time
adding extensions that are not part of the standard. Others go farther,
claiming that their unique implementations are themselves "open
standards", a reversal of standards logic. The result is that the
(usually undefined) term "open standard" has become more of an
aspirational term than a defining term, a problem that we seek to
rectify."

Other documents on their site underscore the importance of ensuring that
any standard claiming to be "open" must work to ensure that third parties
can not extend the standard in proprietary ways. Remember, a standard is
not software. If you add features to software then release it for others
to use and modify then everyone still has access to the old software. But
if some big company like MicroSoft fragments a standard by releasing non-
complying, proprietary software and force feeding that software to the
public then they can kill the standard.

So, "ordinary users" can always suggest and work for changes in the
standard. Just as one can do with all the existing internet standards.
But they will not be allowed to fragment the standard by releasing non-
conforming software or content and claiming it is yet another "version"
of the standard.
A less extreme approach is to have the definition require that
non-conformant documents not be accepted. This is what XML does, so
that (for example) an extension that allowed </end tags would not be
able to claim conformance with the XML specification.
This is exactly what I plan to do when I design my XML schema.
Apr 6 '07 #17

P: n/a
In article <MP************************@news.newsguy.com>,
Grant Robertson <bo***@bogus.invalidwrote:
>Regardless of whether the GPL is appropriate for protecting a
specification, the OP apparently wants to prevent others from
extending his work, which is contrary to the spirit of the GPL. While
I sympathise with the aim of preventing the likes of Microsoft from
"embracing and extending", doing this by restricting what ordinary
users can do would certainly put me off using it.
[...]
>So, "ordinary users" can always suggest and work for changes in the
standard. Just as one can do with all the existing internet standards.
But they will not be allowed to fragment the standard by releasing non-
conforming software or content and claiming it is yet another "version"
of the standard.
Well, you might be able to trademark the name to prevent them from
claiming that it's a version of it, but I don't think you can - or
should be able to - stop people from writing software that implements
extensions to your standard.

The author of the 1960s programming language TRAC tried to use
trademark law to control the language, but extended versions were
produced under different names.

-- Richard
--
"Consideration shall be given to the need for as many as 32 characters
in some alphabets" - X3.4, 1963.
Apr 6 '07 #18

P: n/a
Richard Tobin wrote:
Well, you might be able to trademark the name to prevent them from
claiming that it's a version of it
Which is what Sun did with Java; they enforced that against Microsoft
when the MS version diverged too strongly from the spec.

If you're serious about seeking legal protection, I ***STRONGLY***
recommend you pay the money to hire a lawyer to advise you. Free legal
advice found on the Internet is generally not worth more than you paid
for it.
--
Joe Kesselman / Beware the fury of a patient man. -- John Dryden
Apr 6 '07 #19

P: n/a
In article <ev***********@pc-news.cogsci.ed.ac.uk>,
ri*****@cogsci.ed.ac.uk says...
Well, you might be able to trademark the name to prevent them from
claiming that it's a version of it, but I don't think you can - or
should be able to - stop people from writing software that implements
extensions to your standard.
Then you would be indisagreement with the Open Source Initiative and most
of the experts on the open standards field. Only by protecting a standard
can it ever be a "standard" at all. Fragmentation is what killed UNIX.
Linus Torvold's tight rein on what can be considered part of the kernal
of Linux is what makes it successful.
Apr 6 '07 #20

P: n/a
In article <461648ff$1@kcnews01>, ke************@comcast.net says...
If you're serious about seeking legal protection, I ***STRONGLY***
recommend you pay the money to hire a lawyer to advise you. Free legal
advice found on the Internet is generally not worth more than you paid
for it.
I know. If you recall, all I was originally asking was for a specific
fact which I could not find elsewhere. People felt the need to give me
their opinions, which led to discussions about opinions. Nothing more.
Besides, there is no law or precedent which dictates what strategy will
best promote a standard. It is all conjecture, trial, and error.
Apr 6 '07 #21

P: n/a
In article <ev***********@pc-news.cogsci.ed.ac.uk>,
ri*****@cogsci.ed.ac.uk says...
Well, you might be able to trademark the name to prevent them from
claiming that it's a version of it,
I do intend to trademark the name. And I have a really cool logo as well.
Apr 6 '07 #22

P: n/a
In article <461648ff$1@kcnews01>,
Joseph Kesselman <ke************@comcast.netwrote:
>Well, you might be able to trademark the name to prevent them from
claiming that it's a version of it
>Which is what Sun did with Java; they enforced that against Microsoft
when the MS version diverged too strongly from the spec.
This works once the brand is sufficiently successful. Microsoft
could have diverged as much as they liked so long as they didn't
call it Java, but they evidently calculated that that wouldn't do
them any good.

-- Richard
--
"Consideration shall be given to the need for as many as 32 characters
in some alphabets" - X3.4, 1963.
Apr 6 '07 #23

P: n/a
In article <MP************************@news.newsguy.com>,
Grant Robertson <bo***@bogus.invalidwrote:
>Well, you might be able to trademark the name to prevent them from
claiming that it's a version of it, but I don't think you can - or
should be able to - stop people from writing software that implements
extensions to your standard.
>Then you would be indisagreement with the Open Source Initiative and most
of the experts on the open standards field. Only by protecting a standard
can it ever be a "standard" at all. Fragmentation is what killed UNIX.
Linus Torvold's tight rein on what can be considered part of the kernal
of Linux is what makes it successful.
I'm not sure what you're getting at here. Linus does not sure people
who extend the Linux kernel. His authority is (currently) sufficient
to limit fragmentation, but anyone who wants to produce a modified
version of Linux is free to do so. It's one thing to have the moral
authority to keep a standard intact, quite another to use legal means
to stop people trying.

And Unix obviously isn't dead, because Linux is an implementation of
it.

-- Richard
--
"Consideration shall be given to the need for as many as 32 characters
in some alphabets" - X3.4, 1963.
Apr 6 '07 #24

P: n/a
In article <ev***********@pc-news.cogsci.ed.ac.uk>,
ri*****@cogsci.ed.ac.uk says...
Which is what Sun did with Java; they enforced that against Microsoft
when the MS version diverged too strongly from the spec.

This works once the brand is sufficiently successful. Microsoft
could have diverged as much as they liked so long as they didn't
call it Java, but they evidently calculated that that wouldn't do
them any good.
Ever heard of C#, pronounced "see sharp"? That is microsoft's attempt to
duplicate Java. Some idiots actually program in it.
Apr 7 '07 #25

P: n/a
In article <MP************************@news.newsguy.com>,
Grant Robertson <bo***@bogus.invalidwrote:
>Which is what Sun did with Java; they enforced that against Microsoft
when the MS version diverged too strongly from the spec.
>This works once the brand is sufficiently successful. Microsoft
could have diverged as much as they liked so long as they didn't
call it Java, but they evidently calculated that that wouldn't do
them any good.
>Ever heard of C#, pronounced "see sharp"? That is microsoft's attempt to
duplicate Java. Some idiots actually program in it.
I know about C#, but I'm afraid I have completely lost track of your
argument.

To go back to what I thought was the point: there are various legal
mechanisms you can use to discourage people from extending your
standard, and they may or may not work depending on things like
whether you have the respect of your user community, whether you have
built up a "brand", and so on. But I doubt you can find any purely
legal means to prevent people from doing so: I don't know of any cases
where that has been successful, and I don't think the law *should*
allow you to.

Java and C# are not an example of purely legal means preventing a
company from extending a standard; the trademark on Java meant that
Microsoft would have had to rename their variant, but it was the
strength of the Java brand that made that (apparently) impractical.

And in any case, we have yet to see this "standard". We don't even
know whether anyone will want to use it, let alone extend it.

-- Richard
--
"Consideration shall be given to the need for as many as 32 characters
in some alphabets" - X3.4, 1963.
Apr 7 '07 #26

P: n/a
In article <ev***********@pc-news.cogsci.ed.ac.uk>,
ri*****@cogsci.ed.ac.uk says...
I'm not sure what you're getting at here. Linus does not sue people
who extend the Linux kernel. His authority is (currently) sufficient
to limit fragmentation, but anyone who wants to produce a modified
version of Linux is free to do so.

That's a good point. Since the kernel is under GPL2 I guess I could
modify it and fork it. Fortunately for him and Linux, he does that power
of moral authority. But Linux took a long while to take hold. The only
people who paid any attention were advocates who had just seen UNIX's
last breaths due to fragmentation. So the last thing they wanted to see
was Linux suffer the same fate. I went to a few UNIX users group meetings
back when Linux was first coming out. This point was all they could talk
about.

It's one thing to have the moral
authority to keep a standard intact, quite another to use legal means
to stop people trying.
Very true. I guess my concern is that I would not have the kind of moral
authority that Linus Torvolds has. A) He wrote the entire Linux OS on his
own. That gives you a hell of a lot of "street cred." And B) He was able
to get in on the ground floor of the open source movement.

I am a relative nobody. I have very little in the way of coding skills.
Instead, I have an incredible natural knack for organizing the heck out
of things. Standards and systems for solving major problems come to me in
the shower. Even among the computer uber-geeks in the world, my skills
are not considered cool. This makes it is harder for me to attain that
kind of moral authority. Therefore, in order to achieve the goals of the
standard, which is educating the world for free, I will need to ensure
that the standard isn't fragmented.

Besides, as I and many experts have said, a standard is not software.
Slightly different rules apply. It's OK if software forks a bit because
people can always choose which fork to take and then switch to another
one at will. Forking can be the death knell for a standard, especially a
standard in which vast quantities of data will be shared worldwide. Once
the data set is split into two different, incompatible groups then no one
will want to participate in either.

And Unix obviously isn't dead, because Linux is an implementation of
it.
Now here is where you are flat wrong. Ask any Linux fan, especially Linus
Torvolds, and they will tell you that Linux is not UNIX. Linus replicated
the functionality of UNIX because that wasn't patented but he did not use
ANY of the UNIX source code. This is what allowed him to distribute it
under the GPL in the first place.
Apr 7 '07 #27

P: n/a
In article <MP************************@news.newsguy.com>,
Grant Robertson <bo***@bogus.invalidwrote:
>And Unix obviously isn't dead, because Linux is an implementation of
it.
>Now here is where you are flat wrong. Ask any Linux fan, especially Linus
Torvolds, and they will tell you that Linux is not UNIX. Linus replicated
the functionality of UNIX because that wasn't patented but he did not use
ANY of the UNIX source code. This is what allowed him to distribute it
under the GPL in the first place.
He didn't use any of AT&T's code, but Unix is a generic term for a
family of operating systems, of which Linux is an example. One of the
purported holders of the "UNIX" trademark might try to enforce their
trademark rights, but trademark law merely controls what terms can be
used in trade; it doesn't change the fact of the matter. Fortunately
I am not engaged in selling operating systems so I can state the facts
without worrying about trademarks.

-- Richard

--
"Consideration shall be given to the need for as many as 32 characters
in some alphabets" - X3.4, 1963.
Apr 7 '07 #28

P: n/a
In article <ev***********@pc-news.cogsci.ed.ac.uk>,
ri*****@cogsci.ed.ac.uk says...
I know about C#, but I'm afraid I have completely lost track of your
argument.
You mentioned that Sun's trademark on Java had prevented Microsoft from
making a variant. I just showed that MS did make a variant but that
variant was not nearly as popular as the original. So, I helped prove
your point. As you can see, I'm not actually here to argue. I'm here to
learn. But I'm not going to just believe that a standard should not be
protected just because a few people on the internet tell me it shouldn't.
I have been taking things people say and using it to fuel research in to
the issue.

Java and C# are not an example of purely legal means preventing a
company from extending a standard; the trademark on Java meant that
Microsoft would have had to rename their variant, but it was the
strength of the Java brand that made that (apparently) impractical.
So, since Sun used both legal and moral means to enforce the "standard"
of Java it is hard to say which did the trick. Perhaps it took both
together to get the job done and protect Java enough for it to gain a
real foothold in the market. Now that Java has that foothold, it may be
hard to see that it needed legal means to get it's foot in the door, to
really wear out the metaphor.

Perhaps I will need legal means to start out with, in order to keep my
standard from just getting yanked every which way. I feel that once
people see the value in what it can do then people will get on board
regardless of the legal protections. Remember, I am only trying to keep
the standard itself from forking and getting diluted. I am not saying
anything about controlling what software people can write to make use of
the standard.

To go back to what I thought was the point: there are various legal
mechanisms you can use to discourage people from extending your
standard, and they may or may not work depending on things like
whether you have the respect of your user community, whether you have
built up a "brand", and so on. But I doubt you can find any purely
legal means to prevent people from doing so: I don't know of any cases
where that has been successful, and I don't think the law *should*
allow you to.
Well, it doesn't matter what anyone thinks *should* be the case. I could
patent, copyright, and trademark the heck out of this thing if I wanted
to and no one would be able to do anything with it. But then that is the
point, isn't it. No one would *want* to do anything with it. The trick is
to find the right level of protection without killing the standard or
letting it fork all over the place, thus becoming worthless.

And in any case, we have yet to see this "standard". We don't even
know whether anyone will want to use it, let alone extend it.
And you won't for some time now. I still have quite a bit of work to do
before this thing is ready for prime time. Before then, too many hints
may inspire knock-off standards to spring up and poison the waters, so to
speak. Remember, this is not software. This is a standard. The idea is to
build a standard which will encourage many open source and commercial
developers to write software to the standard. I am also designing the
standard so that much of the software could be created by piecing
together many standard software modules already in existence. This will
make it even easier for developers to write software.

By creating a total system - the standard, an organizational system,
reference software, and licenses - very carefully, I hope to create a
situation where within a few years *quality* educational material will be
as easily available as bad web pages.
Apr 7 '07 #29

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