Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: John Basso, Pat Romanski, Kevin Benedict, Liz McMillan, Dana Gardner

Related Topics: Linux Containers, Java IoT, Industrial IoT

Linux Containers: Article

So, Could Microsoft Ever "Own" XML?

Redmond giant granted United States patent 6,687,897 for "XML script automation" - what XML-related patents may be next?

Last month,  Microsoft applied for a patent to cover a word-processing document stored in a single XML file. That was in Europe and New Zealand.

"The present invention," it said in its accompanying Summary submitted to the European Patent Office,  "is directed at providing a word-processing document in a native XML file format that may be understood by an application that understands XML, or to enable another application or service to create a rich document in XML so that the word-processing application can open it as if it was one of its own documents."

At LinuxWorld we speculated whether this was  "either a preemptive move against IBM's plan to migrate to Linux on the desktop, a direct challenge to software vendors who want to interoperate with Word through XML, or just a more general confirmation that it is worried about Open Source." While the XML standard itself remains royalty free, Microsoft seemed intent, we noted, on seeking patent protection for as many specific software implementations that incorporate elements of XML as it could.

But now comes the news that, right here in the United States, Microsoft has been granted US patent 6,687,897 - filed as long ago as December 2000, it should be noted - for "XML script automation." In other words, it involves "systems, methods and data structures for encompassing scripts written in one or more scripting languages in a single file."

"This does not, in any way, change the royalty-free nature of the XML standard itself," a spokesman for the Redmond software giant said yesterday. 

What does this mean for the rest of us?  Well, it is not a patent on XML itself, but on the method of encompassing multiple scripts inside an XML file. The scripts can be all written in the same language or different languages.

One developer comments: "I think this may be used to change the way ASP works. It will allow you to use C# and javascript in one file and depending on the system configuration, it selects the correct script to run."

Another says: "We're all moving to xml for many obvious reasons, and Microsoft has patented one of them. We've all been adding multiple scripts to our HTML files for years, and there have been pain points. One promise of XML is to have more easily parsed data and meta-data due to the ability to define tags and the use of hierarchical tags instead of a fixed list of attributes. Every HTML file I've ever written falls into this classification where XML is desired, and this includes my javascript code. We've all been doing this for years within HTML. What Microsoft has patented is an obvious extension of current industry practices to anyone skilled in the art, and the patent should not have been granted."

Technoskeptics worry that, while Microsoft is not trying to patent XML itself,  it might over time seek to patent many aspects and possible uses of XML that there will be no practical method to use XML in a meaningful way without infringing a Microsoft patent.

We will follow the discussions that will no doubt follow in online communities like XML-DEV, and keep LinuxWorld readers posted on what's being said by those in the know about XML and patents.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

Comments (17) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
xmlguy 02/23/04 10:56:05 PM EST

Darn, the server removed some of my last post. Let's see if we can get around the HTML formatting. Here's the file format for the macros.dtd again. Replace (in your mind) all the {} with <> (less than and greater than symbols):

{macros}
{macro name="Macro1" key="Alt+A" lang="VBScript"}
{![CDATA[...code here...]]}
{/macro}
{macro name="Macro2" key="Alt+B" lang="VBScript"}
{![CDATA[...code here...]]}
{/macro}
{/macros}

and here's the DTD from XMetaL 3:

{!--
NAME
macros.dtd

DESCRIPTION
XML DTD for XMetaL macro files

HISTORY
1999.03.29 Created by Bruce Sharpe

Copyright (c) 1999 SoftQuad Software Inc.
--}

{!ELEMENT MACROS (MACRO*)}
{!ELEMENT MACRO (#PCDATA)}

{!ATTLIST MACRO
name CDATA #IMPLIED
key CDATA #IMPLIED
lang CDATA #REQUIRED
id CDATA #IMPLIED
desc CDATA #IMPLIED
tooltip CDATA #IMPLIED
hide (true|false) #IMPLIED }

xmlguy 02/23/04 10:53:03 PM EST

Darn, the server removed some of my last post. Let's see if we can get around the HTML formatting. Here's the file format for the macros.dtd again:

<macros>
<macro name="Macro1" key="Alt+A" lang="VBScript">
<![CDATA[...code here...]]>
</macro>
<macro name="Macro2" key="Alt+B" lang="VBScript">
<![CDATA[...code here...]]>
</macro>
</macros>

and here's the DTD from XMetaL 3:

<!--
NAME
macros.dtd

DESCRIPTION
XML DTD for XMetaL macro files

HISTORY
1999.03.29 Created by Bruce Sharpe

Copyright (c) 1999 SoftQuad Software Inc.
-->

<!ELEMENT MACROS (MACRO*)>
<!ELEMENT MACRO (#PCDATA)>

<!ATTLIST MACRO
name CDATA #IMPLIED
key CDATA #IMPLIED
lang CDATA #REQUIRED
id CDATA #IMPLIED
desc CDATA #IMPLIED
tooltip CDATA #IMPLIED
hide (true|false) #IMPLIED >

xmlguy 02/23/04 10:51:28 PM EST

Damn, the server removed some of my last post. Let's see if we can get around the HTML formatting. Here's the file format for the macros.dtd again:

<macros>
<macro name="Macro1" key="Alt+A" lang="VBScript">
<![CDATA[...code here...]]>
</macro>
<macro name="Macro2" key="Alt+B" lang="VBScript">
<![CDATA[...code here...]]>
</macro>
</macros>

and here's the DTD from XMetaL 3:

<!--
NAME
macros.dtd

DESCRIPTION
XML DTD for XMetaL macro files

HISTORY
1999.03.29 Created by Bruce Sharpe

Copyright (c) 1999 SoftQuad Software Inc.
-->

<!ELEMENT MACROS (MACRO*)>
<!ELEMENT MACRO (#PCDATA)>

<!ATTLIST MACRO
name CDATA #IMPLIED
key CDATA #IMPLIED
lang CDATA #REQUIRED
id CDATA #IMPLIED
desc CDATA #IMPLIED
tooltip CDATA #IMPLIED
hide (true|false) #IMPLIED >

xmlguy 02/23/04 10:39:51 PM EST

This patent should be anulled (or whatever you call it in legalese). There are at least two cases of "prior art" that I know of, in two different products originally created by SoftQuad (later bought by Corel).

The first one I know of is HoTMetaL Pro (the HTML editor) which allowed users to record "macros". These were collected together into an XML file with the following structure:

The second product, XMetaL (also from SoftQuad) did exactly the same thing, with the added benefit that they also provided a macro (script) editor. Other than that the file format looks pretty much exactly the same to me. The XMetaL printed and online documentation documents this format (see above) *AND* the XML DTD also shipped with the product. I think the first release of XMetaL was sometime in 1999 and the last version I saw (4.0) still includes the DTD (called macros.dtd) and it has only very slightly changed in 5 years (with the main structure of the documents being exactly the same: ...

HoTMetaL predates XMetaL by quite a few years, but it is unlikely that macros.dtd file format existed before 1998 (when the XML spec was released), however, I think a number of the original SoftQuad founders were on the XML working group so they may have had an idea that XML would be useful even before the XML recommendation was released. I wouldn't be surprised if HoTMetaL versions before version 6 even used this format.

- XMLGuy

Fecal Extrusion 02/19/04 09:04:53 AM EST

Mike Calder-Smith,
Do you want to get sued by ever little Tom Dick and Harry
that thinks they can make a feew bucks off you for no reason
at all.

I agree with you that everyone SHOULD be accountable for
their own negligence, but you don't have to actually be
negligent in the US to be sued. There's enough 'grey area'
and loopholes in the legal system to destroy anyone.

I like your license, it is good, BUT...
Why not adopt the same licensing terms Microsoft uses?

Microsoft's license put into laymans terms is basically:
"By opening, and installing our software, you waive any
rights to litigate against us". That is the main reason
there currently is no class action suit against them for
their negligent programming that has severely damaged many
business entities and home users systems and data.

Why does this only work in the software world?

Do you think General Motors/Ford/Chrysler would be able to
sell a car with a contract stipulating similar terms?
"By entering this vehicle you waive any right to litigate
against us" ...Great, you get in your car, start it, put it
in drive ad it takes off on you and the steering doesn't
work because some union guy who was smoking pot on the job
forgot to put a cotter pin or something, and your car plows
into a crowd of people. YET, by entering the car you waived
any right to SUE the manufacturer.

Nice world of exceptions we live in!

Mike Calder-Smith 02/19/04 04:59:21 AM EST

I'm quite happy to sell to people who can sue me. If I do
something wrong or unethical then anyone who suffers should
be able to get a remedy.
What I am very much against is the stifling of competition
and initiative by monopolists by virtue of their size,
wealth, and muscle by the means of unjust and bad laws they
have managed to "persuade" the legislators to put in place.
Copyright (for a reasonable term) is a good and effective
means of protecting the rights of intellectual knowledge
producers. So are patents, provided they are original, not
obvious, and novel (which includes being a creation, not a
discovery). I'm a knowledge worker, and I depend on both
(but not software patents, I hasten to add).
The DMCA, and its draconian approach and penalties, taken
together with the extra-territorial approach of some US
courts and authorities, is unjust and bad law. It is also
unnecessary, because existing copyright law is sufficient
to provide the protections it was claimed to provide - a
situation that the rest of the world seems quite happy
with. I don't see why the rest of industry and commerce
should be ruined to give the pop music and film industry a
free ride.
Software patents as issued in the USA are just ridiculous.
The ones we're discussing here are neither original nor
novel and are glaringly obvious to anyone who's been in the
industry for more than a couple of years. I would have
less of a problem with software patents if the issuing
authorities did what they should; check prior art, and test
novelty and so on via someone who knows the area of
knowledge concerned.

Fecal Extrusion 02/18/04 09:55:28 PM EST

Mike Calder-Smith, in reference to your statement:
"... It does have the unfortunate effect of making our
software very much less attractive to US customers..."

Do you reeeeally want to do business with people who won't
buy your product unless they can sue you.

What you are seeing is the erosion of international trade &
commerce. (At least with the US)
I'm afraid it is the USA that will suffer on this.
While the rest of the world enjoys international trade and
commerce, it is the USA that will be stuck, all alone, quarantined from the rest of the world in its own litigious happy little world.

Fecal Extrusion 02/18/04 09:41:00 PM EST

They can't OWN it, but they can (and most definately WILL)
hijack it and flood the world with 'their own' version
of it which is incompatible with the original XML spec.

Does MS's incompatible JAVA implementation bring
back any memories?

Microsoft really should be legally barred from ever
using the word INNOVATE.

Mike Calder-Smith 02/16/04 05:26:17 AM EST

This sort of thing is actually quite worrying for small software development houses like mine (I'm CEO of Guillemot Design, licencing PhOSCo Clinical Trials worldwide, from the UK). Our most recent offering includes a mechanism that some non-technical US judge could easily interpret as flouting this patent. Like most developers, I would have said that this is the kind of thing we've been doing for years, an obvious use of a standard.
However, given the way US courts interpret things, given the sort of things that have happened to developers under the DMCA, and given the litigation background and behaviour of companies like SCO and Microsoft, I now have to think very seriously about whether it is safe anymore to either travel to the USA or to do business there. This particular instance is only a part of a growing pattern.
My first reaction has been to modify our standard licence and terms and conditions for contracts. They now all contain a standard clause, copied below. I suggest that any non-US software company consider including something similar but appropriate for their environment in their legal documents. It does have the unfortunate effect of making our software very much less attractive to US customers; the sort of side-effect that I suspect may well have been in the minds of the monopolists.
My other reaction is that I have decided, reluctantly, that in the future I can't afford to travel to the USA.

USE SUBJECT TO JURISDICTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Where any party to a contract with Guillemot Design Limited is situated in or is subject to or performs any act under any jurisdiction of the United States of America that party shall indemnify and hold Guillemot Design Limited harmless from any action extra-territorial or otherwise of any third party including but not restricted to government agencies of the United States of America with regard to copyright, copy protection legislation, infringement or other violation of software patent, or other intellectual property restrictions or legislation, where such action is based on any statute, ordinance, or other basis without equivalent under English law, and any costs arising from such action.

J.L.P. Lopez de Victoria 02/14/04 11:01:15 PM EST

I quote:

``Another failed attempt by Microsoft too stop or at least slow down the advancement of the open source community.``

In other words:

Unmitigated bullshit; thus,

MicroSoft shall not overcome . . .

Ernie Smith 02/14/04 09:58:48 PM EST

I hate to hear that Microsoft got the patent. I can see them using it to their own ends in attempting to stop competition.
But I believe it will be nothing but that. Another failed attempt by Microsoft too stop or at least slow down the advancement of the open source community. There will always be
a solution perhaps even a better one than what currently exist.

Tzafrir 02/14/04 04:26:03 PM EST

This patent is a rather trivial one, as mentioned in the first feedback.

Furthermore, this applies not only to XML technologies: this applies to any type of technologies advancement. When there is a new technology all sorts of things become rather trivial.

but anyway, this patent does not include much. There must be user interaction. The script types are also identifie by their extention.

Paco Paquito Paquete 02/14/04 03:39:13 PM EST

This just represent how the GAP between technology and laws continues to increase every days. Patents like the one mentioned are just stupid, non sense, and completely opposite to the original motivation of Patent Granting to protect the intellectual property and promote development of new ideas. Far for rewarding those peoples and business with good ideas and initiative destroy every possibility of freedom while tying us to the money wishes. It looks that we are lossing all we won with the industrial revolution in XVIII and IXX and XX centuries and comming back to a medival era. It looks that the American Dream is becomming just that ... a Dream.

C. Conrad Cady 02/14/04 11:01:38 AM EST

How can a sober patent examiner say that multiple labelled programs within a single file, presented to a user for execution (claim 1), is a patentable invention?

Daniel Gonzalez 02/14/04 08:43:19 AM EST

And this surprises us how? Embrace, Extend, extinguish. That's usually how they do it.

Mike Carrington 02/14/04 06:02:34 AM EST

I have to agree, I am also deeply concerned about the granting of this kind of patent. What we have here is the granting of a patent to control a relatively generic 'method' for using XML (one that many small users are likely to use).

I hope that the patent office can give more careful consideration to granting these kind of patents.

ashishK 02/13/04 08:01:20 AM EST

on the occasion of the first MS patent application LinuxWorld wrote about, one expert wrote on the XML-DEV list: "It
is critical that this type of patent not be granted since it
poses a significant threat to the entire community of XML
users. By permitting this type of substitution, the principle
of "prior art" is basically discarded since a claim's
dependency on a substitute will be used to exclude *any*
prior art -- no matter how old, how obvious, or how well
known. 'Yes, it's been done before, however, it's never been
done with XSD... Thus, it is patentable.' This is wrong and
must stop." (bob wyman)

@ThingsExpo Stories
We're entering the post-smartphone era, where wearable gadgets from watches and fitness bands to glasses and health aids will power the next technological revolution. With mass adoption of wearable devices comes a new data ecosystem that must be protected. Wearables open new pathways that facilitate the tracking, sharing and storing of consumers’ personal health, location and daily activity data. Consumers have some idea of the data these devices capture, but most don’t realize how revealing and...
The demand for organizations to expand their infrastructure to multiple IT environments like the cloud, on-premise, mobile, bring your own device (BYOD) and the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow. As this hybrid infrastructure increases, the challenge to monitor the security of these systems increases in volume and complexity. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stephen Coty, Chief Security Evangelist at Alert Logic, will show how properly configured and managed security architecture can...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus inter...
There is an ever-growing explosion of new devices that are connected to the Internet using “cloud” solutions. This rapid growth is creating a massive new demand for efficient access to data. And it’s not just about connecting to that data anymore. This new demand is bringing new issues and challenges and it is important for companies to scale for the coming growth. And with that scaling comes the need for greater security, gathering and data analysis, storage, connectivity and, of course, the...
The IETF draft standard for M2M certificates is a security solution specifically designed for the demanding needs of IoT/M2M applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Brian Romansky, VP of Strategic Technology at TrustPoint Innovation, will explain how M2M certificates can efficiently enable confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity on highly constrained devices.
trust and privacy in their ecosystem. Assurance and protection of device identity, secure data encryption and authentication are the key security challenges organizations are trying to address when integrating IoT devices. This holds true for IoT applications in a wide range of industries, for example, healthcare, consumer devices, and manufacturing. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lancen LaChance, vice president of product management, IoT solutions at GlobalSign, will teach IoT developers how t...
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, will provide tips on how to be successful in large scale machine lear...
The IoTs will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and share the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the development proc...
Increasing IoT connectivity is forcing enterprises to find elegant solutions to organize and visualize all incoming data from these connected devices with re-configurable dashboard widgets to effectively allow rapid decision-making for everything from immediate actions in tactical situations to strategic analysis and reporting. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Shikhir Singh, Senior Developer Relations Manager at Sencha, will discuss how to create HTML5 dashboards that interact with IoT devic...
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to massively disrupt IoT. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, AJ Abdallat, CEO of Beyond AI, will discuss what the five main drivers are in Artificial Intelligence that could shape the future of the Internet of Things. AJ Abdallat is CEO of Beyond AI. He has over 20 years of management experience in the fields of artificial intelligence, sensors, instruments, devices and software for telecommunications, life sciences, environmental monitoring, process...
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ericsson has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Ericsson is a world leader in the rapidly changing environment of communications technology – providing equipment, software and services to enable transformation through mobility. Some 40 percent of global mobile traffic runs through networks we have supplied. More than 1 billion subscribers around the world re...
We’ve worked with dozens of early adopters across numerous industries and will debunk common misperceptions, which starts with understanding that many of the connected products we’ll use over the next 5 years are already products, they’re just not yet connected. With an IoT product, time-in-market provides much more essential feedback than ever before. Innovation comes from what you do with the data that the connected product provides in order to enhance the customer experience and optimize busi...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Klein, CEO and Co-founder of Rachio, will discuss next generation communities that are using IoT to create more sustainable, intelligent communities. One example is Sterling Ranch, a 10,000 home development that – with the help of Siemens – will integrate IoT technology into the community to provide residents with energy and water savings as well as intelligent security. Everything from stop lights to sprinkler systems to building infrastructures will run ef...
Manufacturers are embracing the Industrial Internet the same way consumers are leveraging Fitbits – to improve overall health and wellness. Both can provide consistent measurement, visibility, and suggest performance improvements customized to help reach goals. Fitbit users can view real-time data and make adjustments to increase their activity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mark Bernardo Professional Services Leader, Americas, at GE Digital, will discuss how leveraging the Industrial Interne...
The increasing popularity of the Internet of Things necessitates that our physical and cognitive relationship with wearable technology will change rapidly in the near future. This advent means logging has become a thing of the past. Before, it was on us to track our own data, but now that data is automatically available. What does this mean for mHealth and the "connected" body? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Lisa Calkins, CEO and co-founder of Amadeus Consulting, will discuss the impact of wea...
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
A critical component of any IoT project is the back-end systems that capture data from remote IoT devices and structure it in a way to answer useful questions. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle large data sets, but they are not well suited to many IoT-scale products and the need for real-time insights. At Fuze, we have developed a backend platform as part of our mobility-oriented cloud service that uses Big Data-based approache...
Digital payments using wearable devices such as smart watches, fitness trackers, and payment wristbands are an increasing area of focus for industry participants, and consumer acceptance from early trials and deployments has encouraged some of the biggest names in technology and banking to continue their push to drive growth in this nascent market. Wearable payment systems may utilize near field communication (NFC), radio frequency identification (RFID), or quick response (QR) codes and barcodes...
You deployed your app with the Bluemix PaaS and it's gaining some serious traction, so it's time to make some tweaks. Did you design your application in a way that it can scale in the cloud? Were you even thinking about the cloud when you built the app? If not, chances are your app is going to break. Check out this webcast to learn various techniques for designing applications that will scale successfully in Bluemix, for the confidence you need to take your apps to the next level and beyond.