Monday, 20 June 2011 11:11

Microsoft forced to withdraw XML-related patent application

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Persistent opposition by the New Zealand Open Source Society to an XML-related patent application filed by Microsoft in the country has resulted in the software giant withdrawing the same.


The withdrawal was effected on June 15, according to a statement by the NZOSS. The patent application was titled "word-processing document stored in a single XML file that may be manipulated by applications that understand XML"

NZOSS was informed of the withdrawal b y the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand.

Microsoft filed applications for two patents related to the use of XML in document processing in 2003. The NZOSS filed an objection to the first in 2005.

Peter Harrison, vice-president of the NZOSS, said in a statement the organisation had opposed the granting of the patents because "these patents presented a clear and present danger to both interoperability between Microsoft's products and that of other vendors, and potentially would have allowed Microsoft to force other companies into patent licensing agreements in order to implement word processing documents in XML".

"A few years ago, after opposing the first patent, we agreed to a substantial limiting of the claims of the first patent to such an extent that we don't believe anyone will ever infringe it. Subsequently we opposed the second patent, and have been moving towards a hearing on the opposition," he added.

"The decision by Microsoft to abandoned the second patent application in the face of our opposition has substantially vindicated our position; that is that these patent applications were not patentable inventions."

Last year, the New Zealand government decided that software would not be patentable in the country.

Asked for comment, Don Christie, the immediate past president of NZOSS, said: "The NZOSS has now successfully challenged two of Microsoft's XML patents. This is very significant, especially as they have withdrawn them in other countries.

"The knock-on effect is that our data is now a bit freer than it was. A lot of the talk about open government data conveniently ignores the patent lock-in that prevails. So, in some ways our success has removed one barrier to using MS Office in government. There are still many others, proprietary fonts being a key one, but we make progress," said Christie who is now the government liaison officer for the society.

"Our lawyer estimates that to take a patent opposition to a hearing will cost about $50,000 - all out expert witnesses were volunteers but it just gives you an idea of the economic cost that software patents impose on our industry."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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