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Sunday
Oct232005

Small company makes big claims on XML patents

In a post a few weeks ago, I riffed on the idea of IP Raiders.  Here's a company which claims it has patent rights on intellectual property that's been incorporated into XML.  The article in ZDNet raises this as an issue relating to software patents. 

Now, I'm not a big advocate of software patents, or rather process patents that are so nebulously worded that it's impossible to determine in advance of a court decision whether there's infringement or not. But this is not an issue of software patents.  This feels like a combination of bad judgement on the part of the Patent Office and financial self-interest.   

I haven't read the patents, and don't know the details.  I have no basis on which to pass judgement, just some impressions.   What bothers me is recurrence of these infringement claims only after extensive adoption of a particular piece of IP by the industry at large.  It does not sit well with me.  It's a feeling of being ambushed.

This system is broken.  The patent trolls need to have some limitations placed on their actions. 

Link: Small company makes big claims on XML patents | Tech News on ZDNet.

... Scientigo intends to "monetize" this intellectual property, Scientigo CEO Doyal Bryant said this week.

Rather than seek royalties itself, Scientigo has forged a tentative agreement with an intellectual-property licensing firm that will handle contracts with third parties, Bryant said. A final agreement could be announced early next week, he said.

"We're not interested in having us against the world. We're just looking for ways to leverage an asset; we have pretty concrete proof that makes us feel comfortable saying it is an asset," Bryant said.

Scientigo's claims are the latest to crop up in an industry that is sharply divided over the role of patents.

Advocates argue that the patent system protects intellectual property as intended. Detractors, including those who call for the elimination of software patents, say that patents make it simpler for businesses--sometimes pejoratively dubbed "patent trolls"--to legally prey on unsuspecting software users. ...

Update: An article in today's Technology Review adds a bit more to the story of Scientigo's efforts.  If I am reading this correctly, Scientigo picked up the relevant patent rights in an auction of Commerce One's IP assets. The IP Raider sobriquet seems more and more appropriate.

Bryant says Scientigo's claims -- which relate to XML "namespaces," a universal system for naming data types, which was added to the XML standard by the W3C in 1999 -- are not a repeat of the SCO episode. According to him, the company simply wants to find a way to earn a reasonable return on its intellectual property. And when South Carolina-based e-business software developer Commerce One auctioned off a collection of their own XML-related patents last December for $15.5 million, a way appeared.

It was the Commerce One transaction that really got our attention," says Bryant. "If there was no interest in this [technology], there wouldn't have been a last-minute bidding frenzy by the major players.

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