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Company Claims Patent Over XML 421

Posted by Zonk
from the such-a-headache dept.
Aviran Mordo writes "News.com reports that a small software developer plans to seek royalties from companies that use XML, the latest example of patent claims embroiling the tech industry. Charlotte, N.C-based Scientigo owns two patents (No. 5,842,213 and No. 6,393,426) covering the transfer of 'data in neutral forms.' These patents, one of which was applied for in 1997, are infringed upon by the data-formatting standard XML, Scientigo executives assert."
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Company Claims Patent Over XML

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  • One word - EDIFACT (Score:5, Informative)

    by pieterh (196118) on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:27PM (#13846886) Homepage
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=define+edifac t&btnG=Google+Search [google.com]

    Significantly older than 1997, and achieved the same goals as XML, though much less elegantly.
    • 'Perwill's EDI software, which went live in 1992/3.'

      Perwill [google.co.uk] is a horrible piece of software written by Polaris that maps from one text based format to another, it's mainly used for EDI but can be used for anything (you could probably setup an XML/SGML template if you could bare using the software for that long).

      • by dgatwood (11270) on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:59PM (#13847215) Journal

        How about structurally-tagged content dating back as far as the late 1960s?

        A Brief History of the Development of SGML [sgmlsource.com]

        For that matter, XML is just a specific, more restrictive dialect of SGML. The SGML draft standard was first published in 1985, twelve years prior to this patent. Since XML is a proper subset of prior art that existed prior to the filing of this patent, XML in effect existed prior to the filing of this patent.

        If this ever goes to court, the company should expect their lawyers to be prosecuted for barratry.

        • Barratry (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 21, 2005 @05:04PM (#13847922)
          Since I'm sure I'm not the only person who had to look this up. :)

          barratry (br'-tr)
          n., pl. -tries.

          1. The offense of persistently instigating lawsuits, typically groundless ones.

          2. An unlawful breach of duty on the part of a ship's master or crew resulting in injury to the ship's owner.

          3. Sale or purchase of positions in church or state.

          [Middle English barratrie, the sale of church offices, from Old French baraterie, deception, malversation, from barater, to cheat. See barrator.]
        • by Taladar (717494) on Friday October 21, 2005 @05:48PM (#13848319)
          And SGML is just a minor syntax change from Lisp S-Expressions which should be even older.
        • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday October 21, 2005 @06:38PM (#13848737) Homepage Journal
          We're always hearing of lawyers who file groundless suits. How often are they prosecuted for barratry? Seems like the barratry officer would be the most popular guy around, except among the lawyers.
        • by radtea (464814) on Friday October 21, 2005 @06:40PM (#13848748)

          Not only does SGML predate these patents by a long, long time, XML itself was announced at SGML'96. I took a copy of the draft standard home from that meeting. So XML also predates the earliest patent application by on the order of a year.

        • Since XML is a proper subset of prior art that existed prior to the filing of this patent,

          Subsets of an existing idea are individually patentable. A 3x3x3m block of steel, after all, is a superset of thousands of different useful machines- just eliminate the excess molecule(s), and there it is! "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."

          The XML specification is a subset of /dev/random.
          • but wouldn't that kind of make it an obvious path to the layperson?

            A machine being a subset of a chunk of steel is somewhat backwards. You cannot just take my list of tools or ideas, leave a few out and then claim them as your own. You have to create a new function or improvment for them.

            Now maybe the fact we are discussing all this prior art (that might not apply) doesn't mean thier patten isn't valid but that it shows it might be overly broad and reaches into too many areas?

            Step 1, look for an existing id
    • by Uruk (4907) on Friday October 21, 2005 @04:09PM (#13847305)
      I don't see how this guy's got a case anyway. From his patent statement:

      The present invention simplifies the data modeling process and enables its full dynamic versioning by employing a non-hierarchical non-integrated structure to the organization of information.


      That seems to seal it - he's disclaiming heirarchical data structures isn't he? Wouldn't it be fair to say that if anything, XML is a hierarchical data structure?

      <I>
          <always>
                <thought>
                      <so></so>
                </thought>
          </always>
      </I>
      • by MadMorf (118601) on Friday October 21, 2005 @05:23PM (#13848096) Homepage Journal
        non-hierarchical non-integrated structure

        Heck, that sounds like a CSV formatted file...

        I hope he doesn't think he invented THAT...!
        • Someone patented RLE (run length encoding).

          i.e., a string of X repeated Y times is represented as XY, e.g.

          11144333529999998777222222222

          is represented as

          134233512196817329

          Nifty, and useful for compressing something with a lot of serial redundancy (like PPM files, anything will help those!), but patent worthy?

          The US gov't thought so.

      • by sterno (16320) on Friday October 21, 2005 @05:25PM (#13848113) Homepage
        The thing that's bad about this is that assuming these guys have enough money to front the lawyers they can sue their way into riches regardless of whether it's a valid claim. All they do is send nastygrams to a bunch of small companies they believe to be infringing on their patent seeking royalties. Invariably a number of those companies will pay up to avoid the potential of open ended legal battles.

        So in the 90's it was:

        1) Do something cool
        2) ...
        3) Profit

        In the 00's it's

        1) Do something somebody else did before
        2) Sue everybody who already did it
        3) Profit

      • by ad0gg (594412)
        Their patent is really on CSV files. If you read the description, you can see they are patenting storing datasets and used excel as example. Excel can ouput CSVs for neutral application portability.
    • Let's apply for a patent for a netural gas with the following composition:

      Nitrogen - 78%
      Oxygen - 21%
      Argon - 1%
      Carbon Dioxide - .03%
      Neon - .002%
      Methane - .0002%
      Helium - .0005%
      Krypton - .0001%
      Hydrogen - .00005%
      Xenon - .000009%

      Wanna guess what I'm gonna do if I can get a patent on that?
      <start evil laughter>
      All of you will be my slaves and I will rule the world!!!
      <end evil laughter>

      Queen B
    • Am I the only one who, despite detesting such frivolous patent assaults, knowing full well that this one's full of crap, and working at a company that could stand to lose money over this, really hopes he gets away with it anyways? /hates XML
  • by bldp (912036) on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:27PM (#13846889)
    Somebody should patent the patent process. Quite possibly the only way to screw it up more.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:27PM (#13846892)
    if only i could patent the first post, but another anonymous coward would probably claim prior art.
  • SGML? (Score:5, Informative)

    by slavemowgli (585321) on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:27PM (#13846897) Homepage
    But XML is essentially just a stricter version of SGML, which was developed in the 1960s already. Certainly that is prior art?
    • Re:SGML? (Score:3, Informative)

      by julesh (229690)
      While technologically XML is a descendent of SGML, it's used for a substantially different goal: SGML is intended for markup of documents, XML is intended for rendering non-document structured data in a way that allows it to be processed independently of its data type.

      As these patents are very clearly about data, not documents, I don't think SGML is a valid antecedent.

      That doesn't mean there aren't any. ASN.1 or S-Exprs spring to mind as candidates.
      • Re:SGML? (Score:5, Informative)

        by gstoddart (321705) on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:57PM (#13847194) Homepage
        While technologically XML is a descendent of SGML, it's used for a substantially different goal: SGML is intended for markup of documents, XML is intended for rendering non-document structured data in a way that allows it to be processed independently of its data type.

        Close. XML is not 'intended for rendering non-document structured data'.

        XML allows you to create structured data, be they documents, data interchange, paramet lists, or recipes. XML made some of the schema definitions less ambiguous and more rigid -- SGML had all sorts of things that made parsing difficult. XML didn't say that you can't use XML to store documents and must use it for data. They just said "we'll simplify the rules so that things like yacc can parse the grammar". That's all.

        XML is completely purpose agnostic. So, actually, was SGML. SGML was primarily used to make structured data, but there was never an expectation that the SGML files were "document" vs "data". Though the original uses of GML/SGML may have been for marking up documents, that wasn't required.

        I was using SGML for structured data interchange about 10 or 11 years ago. In the same way, I'm free to use XML for either data, documents, or anything else. The DocBook DTD was around in the SGML days, and is still in use now -- it defines documents.

        As these patents are very clearly about data, not documents, I don't think SGML is a valid antecedent.

        Not really. The stuff in a document is data to the program that runs it. It is a perfectly valid (and well established) usage of SGML to contain what you're calling data -- config filed, parameters, etc. SGML was being used for data back in the day. Much like XML can be used to represent a 'document', or to hold 'data' -- XML-RPC or the ArborText editors are both uses of XML as an interchange format.

        An instance of an XML file (ie. an XML document) is either data, document, or whatever it is intended to be.

        It is completely false ot say that XML and SGML are differentiated by what the purpose of the contents of the file is. And it is completely valid to say the long history of GML/SGML/XML are so much before these patents it's not funny.
      • Re:SGML? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday October 21, 2005 @04:01PM (#13847227) Homepage Journal
        And the difference between a document and data is?
      • Re:SGML? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by drakaan (688386)
        I dunno..."Standard Generalized Markup Language" vs. "eXtensible Markup Language". There are hints in the names as to what they're for.

        In point of fact, XML is not just intended for rendering non-document structured data (XHTML being one example of this, just as HTML is an example of this relating to SGML).

        XML and SGML both had the intent of allowing open definitions of document content within a specific framework (delimiters, keywords, general syntax rules), and XML is a restricted subset of SGML. The

    • Re:SGML? (Score:3, Informative)

      by slavemowgli (585321)
      Oh, and to the idiot who modded this redundant, if you compare the comment ids, you'll notice that I was actually the first to point this out. Sheesh, if you have to mod down at all, at least mod down the *later* posts, idiot.
    • Re:SGML? (Score:3, Informative)

      by dgatwood (11270)

      SGML wasn't developed until the 1980s. Structural tagging existed in the 1960s. There's a difference, albeit a rather moot point, since 1985 still predates 1997.

  • I will require one non-screwed up patent system as my royalty.
  • I may not understand what they mean by "neutral," but couldn't that be construed to mean any open standard? Otherwise, XML doesn't transfer data at all, let alone in a neutral format. The format is defined by the use!
  • Umm...Prior Art? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mad-Mage1 (235582)
    XML is a derivative of SGML..WAY Older than 1997, I can't see how an IP attorney would suggest they actually litigate this. There is A LOT of prior art to go through, in a LOT of formats...This is going to take YEARS in a best case.
    • Yeah -- but this one is going to be a battle of definitions I believe. I was around during the beginnings of XML and working with several of the companies that created XML (on other projeects)... SoftQuad and several other SGML product makers. They originally envisioned XML as a "simpler" version of SGML... and a way to capitalize on the web market that they were rapidly losing to companies that made products that were simpler in concept. ...and this all happened right around 1997. And I have some vague mem
    • And yet you can't see how an IP attorney would suggest such a thing..

      :)
  • Looooosers. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Godeke (32895) * on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:29PM (#13846919)
    According to this:

    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/ webmaster-2002/materials/savory/slides/img18.html [ukoln.ac.uk]

    the XML draft specification was prepared in November 1996. Good luck with that January 28, 1997 filing date.

    As the article points out, XML is an outgrowth of SGML, which goes way before these filings. Yet somehow both patents manage to recognize neither SGML nor XML as prior art. Patent trolls indeed, I'm looking forward to the crunching sound their company makes when it is crushed. XML is too entrenched for the big players to ignore these losers.
  • by jesup (8690) * <randellslashdot@@@jesup...org> on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:29PM (#13846921) Homepage
    From http://www.xml.com/pub/a/w3j/s3.paoli.html [xml.com]:

    "Microsoft cofounded the XML working group at the W3C in July 96 and actively participated in the definition of the standard."

    This was used in IE4.00 for their Channel Definition File (used to schedule "Pull" of channels, an idea that's largely died). I was implementing CDF files at Scala in '96/97. The patent was filed in '97.
  • Patent protections (Score:3, Insightful)

    by totallygeek (263191) <sellis@totallygeek.com> on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:29PM (#13846922) Homepage
    What is really accomplished in all this? No one has stopped making websites with GIF images. After I install Fedora on my box, I race out for the MP3 libs. So, if this goes through, we will all continue to use XML regardless?
  • Everyone prepare to be sued for your use of RSS.
  • I don't get it... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SimReg (99053) on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:29PM (#13846925) Homepage
    Do these companies just forget they have a patent on some technology/feature and then 8 years later when their patent is included in a standard and a huge part of the community they say "Hey, didn't we patent that 8 years ago?"

    There really needs to be some reform that states a company has 90 days, 1 year, or some short fixed period of time to bring a suit against a product, starting from the time it hits the market and is available to the public, the industry, or something.

    The idea that you can silently sit on patents waiting for the world to embrace an obvious idea is an abuse of the system.
    • Exactly! There was a recent ruling to that effect regarding a guy named Lemelson. Although the guy in question waited between 18 - 39 years before he started going after the industry. The original article I read on this is at Groklaw [groklaw.net] with a follow up concerning a ruling against Lemelson there [groklaw.net] as well. The basic gist is that a party may base a reasonable defense against patent infringement on the fact that the plaintiff waited too long to bring a case against them. I would hope that applies here as well!
      • by BeJil (569374) on Friday October 21, 2005 @04:36PM (#13847588)
        Close, Lemelson had to do with something called "prosecution laches," and dealt with a patent strategy of keeping a patent from even issueing until the underlying technology becomes widespread. This practice is less problematic now than when Lemelson was originally filed due to changes in the length of a patent term (now a patent term is 20 years from the date of filing, when Lemelson was filed a patent term was 17 years from the date of issue). However, the broader concept of "laches" is relevant. In property law in general, "laches" is the doctrine that requires that a property owner must actively guard their property rights or they will lose them. For example (and this is a simplified example that is not 100% technically accurate), if your neighbor builds a fence that slops over onto your property and you do not make them remove it, after a long enough time period has passed your neighbors will legally own the property encompassed by the fence. The problem is that the application of laches in the IP realm is still an undeveloped concept and the courts have not adequately set out guidelines for determining when a patent holder has forfeited her rights.
  • HA!

    This is a joke (and a shitty one) if ever there was one.

    They realize that they're suing very narrowly, anyway, right? XHTML is a subset of XML -- why not sue everyone on the web that claims compatibility with the XHTML doctype?

    Absurd.

  • Invalid Claim (Score:5, Informative)

    by robbyjo (315601) on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:30PM (#13846929) Homepage

    From the patent abstract:

    The present invention simplifies the data modeling process and enables its full dynamic versioning by employing a non-hierarchical non-integrated structure to the organization of information.

    XML is hierarchical data structure. Hence, his claim isn't valid.

    • Re:Invalid Claim (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RexRhino (769423) on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:46PM (#13847077)
      Yes!

      Now all you need is two years and $5,000,000 for the legal fees to prove it in court!
    • Re:Invalid Claim (Score:3, Informative)

      by Qzukk (229616)
      The abstract is just there for shits and giggles. The "inventor" can outright lie about the patent in the abstract, and some previous patent story here had two different patents with the exact same abstract. The abstract could just as easily have read "This is an invention to create happy fun places with sunshine and happiness for all!"

      It's the claims that count, all they need is a claim like

      12512: A method as in any of the above where the data is stored in a hiearchical format.

      and they'd have XML by the
  • by BrakesForElves (806095) * on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:32PM (#13846942) Homepage
    That's it... I'm going to patent an "agency enabling litigous under-achievers to assert ownership rights for ideas completely obvious to the most casual observer, and exacting confiscatory license fees therefrom". Yep, I'm going to patent the U.S. Patent Office, then chage dickheads like these "patent license" fees for using _my_ patented invention: The patent office.
  • Bah. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sethadam1 (530629) * <adam@firsttubeEEE.com minus threevowels> on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:33PM (#13846951) Homepage
    Let's review the patenet, line 1:

    The present invention simplifies the data modeling process and enables its full dynamic versioning by employing a non-hierarchical non-integrated structure to the organization of information.

    Uh... is it just me, or is XML ENTIRELY hierarchical?? In fact, it won't validate if you don't have elements nested properly. How can they even be serious?
  • USPTO - Again (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geomon (78680) on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:33PM (#13846959) Homepage Journal
    This fact:

    Charlotte, N.C.-based Scientigo owns two patents (No. 5,842,213 and No. 6,393,426) covering the transfer of "data in neutral forms." These patents, one of which was applied for in 1997, are infringed upon by the data-formatting standard XML, Scientigo executives assert.

    combined with this fact:

    Daly noted that companies or even individuals often make patent claims on XML. For example, Microsoft, which uses XML as the foundation of many of its products, was awarded a patent for programming techniques related to XML.

    shows me that the USPTO hopelessly is fucked up.

    These people are either overwhelmed by the number of claims and have no time to do the proper research before granting a patent, or they are are just plain stupid. I'm going to be generous and assume that these examiners are given a quota that they have to have resolved each week and that they haven't the time or resources to validate every claim. There is probably also a lack of expertise in the USPTO to properly vet the claims made in these applications.
    • Re:USPTO - Again (Score:4, Interesting)

      by charon69 (458608) on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:55PM (#13847176)
      Quote: I'm going to be generous and assume that these examiners are given a quota that they have to have resolved each week...

      You're exactly correct. My ex worked at the USPTO on biomedical patents. Your evaluation was based on how many patents you had processed during the previous week. She estimated that, with proper investigation of all claims, you would have to work almost 60 hours a week on average to finish your quota. At first hire, you're not expected to meet this quota, i.e. they give you time to get "up to speed". But, after they think that enough time has passed, the quota is driven pretty hard. She spoke of coworkers literally being yelled at for not finishing the proper amount of cases. They don't really care if you pass or deny them, just as long as a "processed" stamp is placed on the case.

      What's worse, even with these draconian measures, they were still roughly two years behind on processing patent applications.
  • Time to start a 'Burn all XML' capain and get everybody to switch the good old S-Expressions =;)
  • XML is basically a subset of SGML, which has been around since the 60's and was standardized in 1986. I haven't RTFP though.
  • by Swamii (594522) on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:35PM (#13846974) Homepage
    From the patent submission,


    The present invention simplifies the data modeling process and enables its full dynamic versioning by employing a non-hierarchical non-integrated structure to the organization of information.


    How exactly is XML non-hierarchal? Every bit of XML I've seen is all data contained in tags that is structured in a hierarchy of other tags. And if XML is hierarchal, then how do these patents apply to XML data, are they claiming it falls under the "non-integrated" data? Heck, I could throw together a text file and transfer the data over like that, and that would non-integrated. Are they planning on patenting plain text too? This is ludicris. Any tech company with a vested interest in software needs to voice their complains about the horrific software patent situation.
  • by RexRhino (769423) on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:36PM (#13846982)
    These insane patents are actually the best thing that could have ever happened. The way things are going now, there is going to have to be a major overhaul of the patent system. The instane patents have made it dramaticly clear that there is something wrong with the system (these are the tech equivelents of suing McDonalds because your kids are fat).

    Had companies been less aggressive in patenting and litigating nearly anything possible, the system might go on how it is now for decades. These people are making the patent system collapse in a way that those against software patents don't have the power to do.
    • People have been saying that for about 20 years, and the patent system hasn't collapsed yet. I think you should catch on: bad things are bad, they're not good.

  • GML (Score:3, Informative)

    by rlp (11898) on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:36PM (#13846990)
    From Wikipedia: SGML is a descendant of IBM's Generalized Markup Language (GML), developed in the 1960s by Charles Goldfarb, Edward Mosher and Raymond Lorie.
  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:37PM (#13846991)
    <?xml version="1.0"?>
    <bite attr="me"/>
  • ... abound.
    • The patents refer to "data modeling, storage and transfer in a particular non-hierarchical, non-integrated neutral form." XML documents, with a 'root' node, are by nature hierarchical.
    • Can you say prior art? SGML [coverpages.org], which begat XML and HTML, dates back to the 60s [coverpages.org].
  • That's it, I'm going through with my patent on whitespace. You're all going down! Mwuhuahahahahaha!
  • Thank God (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Now we finally have an excuse to kill off XML.
  • patent improvement (Score:2, Interesting)

    by alzoron (210577)
    What I would really like to know with all these generic patent infringment cases is what happened to being able to make an improvement to an existing patent and being able to create a new seperate patent without infringing on the original?

    Example:

    There is a patent for a widget to generate a generic document for an electronic medium. I come along and come up with a widget based on the same ideas but generates documents specially suited for view on, let's say, a handheld computer.

    I would be using the same ba
  • You shouldn't be able to patent a concept of data. Data perhaps, but a type of data? Wouldn't any open standard be a 'neutral form'?
  • by twocents (310492) on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:44PM (#13847065)
    Wow, so a company that claims a patent on xml uses Dreamweaver to build their Web site?
  • I am pretty sure that SCO is thinking about investing in this small company... Microsoft will probably just try to purchase this company... Open Source will show prior art to this company... All employess will be replaced by lawers at this company... All of the lawsuits will fail this company... Lawers will be the only ones to profit from this company... The lawers find a way to ruin every profession,or at least get a cut, much like how coders should be held accountable to all the security flaws of the cod
  • Let the Armchair Patent Attorney contest begin! Whoever can come up with a conclusion based upon the least amount of evidence and reasoning wins one free week of 24 hours a day reading of patent applications.
  • by ENOENT (25325) on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:50PM (#13847124) Homepage Journal
    John McCarthy invented LISP.

    Since XML is just LISP S-expressions made ugly, there's your prior art.

    I guess they could try to patent ugliness...

  • by Free_Trial_Thinking (818686) on Friday October 21, 2005 @03:52PM (#13847148)
    Of course it would be nice if we could all get an excuse not to use XML ...
  • by hey! (33014) on Friday October 21, 2005 @04:15PM (#13847353) Homepage Journal
    I can imagine patents and copyrights begin to gain the kind of unpopularity that welfare gained in the 70s and 80s. There are parallels. Welfare was meant to help the poor; but the programs were poorly designed. They there it was a short step to argue that the programs hurt the poor, aided by a few well chosen horror stories. Then a little banging of the idea's head up against a bedrock American values (self reliance), and you get the end of welfare as we know it.

    Patents are supposed to help the business climate, but the program is sloppy that it exerts a chilling effect on innovation. There are no shortage of horror stories to buttress this. The bedrock value you break the whole system on is freedom itself.

    Of course, the flaw in this scenario is the difference between the right and the left. We on the left have always been more of a crowd-type-mob than a mafia-type-mob. If there is no grass roots impetus, then there will be no movement.

  • by Lost+Found (844289) on Friday October 21, 2005 @04:16PM (#13847381)
    How about we just start an international mob whose purpose is to brutally murder anyone greedy enough to file patents and attempt to enforce them in obnoxious ways? We could grow our business by moving onto broader issues like human rights.
  • by engywook (802813) on Friday October 21, 2005 @04:25PM (#13847486) Homepage
    Seems to me that ASN.1 [elibel.tm.fr] also would represent some fairly significant prior art.

    Quotes from that web site:

    • Abstract Syntax Notation One (ASN.1) is a formal language for abstractly describing messages to be exchanged among an extensive range of applications....
    • ASN.1 was first standardized in 1984 by the CCITT (International Telegraph and Telephone Consultative Committee, now called ITU-T, International Telecommunication Union - Telecommunication Standardization Sector) under the name "X.409 Recommendation".
  • by SilverJets (131916) on Friday October 21, 2005 @04:39PM (#13847621) Homepage
    Why isn't there some sort of time limit on how long you can sit back before choosing to file lawsuits against companies over patent infringement? XML has been in widespread use for at least 2 years if not longer. This company had to know it was out there and being used. So, they had to know it infringed on their patent.

    Why didn't they stand up and say anything earlier? Oh yeah...because back then it would have meant alot less money to be gained. Doesn't this amount to blackmail? Or borders on racketeering?
  • by baka_boy (171146) <lennon&day-reynolds,com> on Friday October 21, 2005 @04:44PM (#13847672) Homepage

    From patent #5,842,213:

    One skilled in the art will appreciate that preferred embodiments of the method of the present invention may take on many different forms depending on the particular application intended. In light of this, the preferred embodiment presented here has been designed primarily to teach many of the important aspects and implications of the method of the present invention in a context which can be readily learned. Once taught the method, one skilled in the art will appreciate many alternative and preferred means for implementing individual aspects of it, depending upon their specific purpose.

    After re-reading that a few times, I think I've figured out that it's basically saying that this isn't an invention, it's a philosophy. This is so fscking general it could be equally validly applied to hypermedia, or frame logic, or tuple spaces, or any of the thousands of schema-less data representation models out there.

    Really, the whole patent begs the following three obvious questions:

    1. What was the author of this patent smoking?
    2. What was the reviewer who approved it smoking?
    3. Can I have some of #1 and/or #2?
    • Hmmm... sounds like a kung-fu movie dialog:

      cut to Shaolin Temple:

      Master Li:
      One skilled in the art will appreciate that preferred embodiments of the method of the present invention may take on many different forms depending on the particular application intended. In light of this, the preferred embodiment presented here has been designed primarily to teach many of the important aspects and implications of the method of the present invention in a context which can be readily learned.

      Grasshopper:
      But Master, ho
  • by julesh (229690) on Friday October 21, 2005 @04:46PM (#13847691)
    The first patent (5,842,213) doesn't cover all applications of XML. It might cover some, however. The most relevant claim is this one:

    11. A method of transferring data in electronic form from a computer comprising the steps of:

    a) organizing and storing the data in neutral form that is to be transferred;

    b) organizing and storing the names, definitions and properties of the structural tags used to express the data in neutral form; and

    c) transferring the data expressed in neutral form along with the names, definitions and properties of the structural tags that make up that neutral form data.


    Which sounds to me like it would cover transferring XML with a schema embedded within the document, or transferring both the document and linked schema at the same time. Other uses of XML would still be allowed.

    This claim is probably too general to survive reeximanation, though. It basically amounts to "transferring data and information about how the data is structured together". I'm sure somebody with a better knowledge of IT history than me can very easily name some prior art for that one.

    12. The method of claim 11, wherein the names, definitions and properties of the structural tags used to express the data in neutral form are themselves treated as data and expressed in neutral form.

    The schema is encoded in the same format as the data. Also a relevant claim to XML with embedded schemas. Rules out prior art that transferred data and a program that could process it together, unless the program was expressed in a similar structure to the data (LISP programs might count here).

    13. The method of claim 11, further including the steps of:

    a) adopting a compatible system of data typing;

    b) using the system to express in neutral form both the data values of a set of information being transferred and the names, definitions, and properties of their associated structural tags; and

    c) combining and transferring both the data values and the names, definitions and properties of the structural tags of the data values in a single neutral form transfer file.


    I don't quite follow this one. Anyone got any ideas what it means?

    14. A method of incorporating neutral form data values and the names, definitions and properties of their associated structural tags into an existing computer environment comprising the steps of:

    a) comparing the names, definitions and properties of the components of the structural tags of the data values with those present in the existing environment;

    b) entering a data value structural tag component name, definition and properties into the dictionary system of the existing environment if it is not already present; and

    c) recording equivalency where a structural tag component in the dictionary system of the existing environment is found to be different but equivalent;

    d) thereafter, adding the data values into the neutral form file of the existing environment.


    Merging two XML files by combining their schema, then combining their data.

    15. The method of claim 14, wherein the neutral form data values are new data values.

    16. The method of claim 14, wherein the neutral form data values are transferred data values.


    Different reasons why you may want to do 14.

    17. The method of claim 14, further including the step of incorporating a unique authoring designator of the originating environment during the naming of components of structural tags to insure a lack of overlap between the structural components of a data value and those in the existing environment.

    Could be construed to cover XML namespaces, if you read it right. This stands a chance of being novel, seeing as XML namespaces had not been implemented in '97 when the patent was filed.

    The second patent seems less relevant -- it seems to relate to the same application that the first patent covered, but doesn't seem to add much to it that is relevant to XML. It is worth noting that the second is explicitly about a data serialization format, probably fairly similar in scope to the Java's java.io.Object[Out/In]putStream classes.

  • by grumpyman (849537) on Friday October 21, 2005 @04:51PM (#13847729)
    'data in neutral forms'

    I own patents on ASCII, duh, hand over your money, NOW!!!

    BTW, you all still own me royalty on my patents on 'Respiration', the process of converting oxygen to energy. I will withdraw my pending lawsuit on the entire mankind, only if the reasonable royalty of 'dollar-per-breath' is paid, or 5-for-$3.99.

  • What about EDI? (Score:3, Informative)

    by madstork2000 (143169) * on Friday October 21, 2005 @05:14PM (#13848017) Homepage
    I got my start in the tech business doing support for an EDI software company- For those not aware EDI - Electronic Data Interchange - was setup to allow business to business transactions before the internet was widely popular. When I was working with EDI , there were several main communication networks, which were really nothing more than an overly complex electronic mailbox. These networks were a royal pain in the ass because they all had different communicatioon protocols, usually worked with only specific brands of modems, and could be accessed with only very specific software.

    Amazing what huge companies can force their little vendors to do. Anyway, the EDI documents where essentially text documents that where defined according to a standard. The definitions where often "modified" by the companies and its partners (causing moe headaches for software vendors). But the bottom line is EDI at the end of the last century filled a niche that XML has made **MUCH** simplier. In fact XML was one of the reason why I changed my focus and got out of EDI, I saw that the Internet and XML specifically were going to make EDI nothing more than a legacy dinosaur.

    -MS2k
  • by mrjb (547783) on Friday October 21, 2005 @05:18PM (#13848046)
    if it doesn't work -- use more.
  • by voss (52565) on Friday October 21, 2005 @06:13PM (#13848530)
    The company that brought this suit forward should be countersued into bankruptcy
    and its officers sued under the RICO act.

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