Microsoft Defends RSS Patent Applications

Dec 26, 2006 (09:12 AM EST)

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Microsoft says its two applications for RSS-related patents do not alter the company's commitment to support the standards-based format for online distribution of news and blogs.

The discovery of the patents last week led to conjecture among tech bloggers that the software company could someday try to seek payment for use of its technology, which is related to receiving and organizing news feeds through a Web browser.

However, Sean Lyndersay, program manager lead of Microsoft's RSS efforts, said in his blog over the weekend that the patent applications are in line with "common industry practice, and one which, by incenting and protecting the companies and people involved, encourages everyone to contribute to the community."

Indeed, it's common practice for tech companies to seek patents for their work to prevent lawsuits from others who may developer similar technologies. The patents do not necessarily mean the companies plan to seek licensing fees from others.

Lyndersay denied, as some bloggers asserted, that Microsoft was claiming to have invented RSS, which stands for Really Simple Syndication. Developer Dave Winer is credited as a lead contributor to the technology.

Rather than try to usurp the work in RSS, Microsoft has always sought "an open and reasonable relationship with the RSS community," Lyndersay said, pointing to the company's publication of various RSS extensions under a Creative Commons license.

"These specifications provide proof of our commitment to offer our contributions to the community and evidence of our efforts to advance the technology," he said.

Winer, however, wasn't satisfied with Lyndersay's explanation, saying that patents are serious obstacles to growth in the market.

"Cutting to the core, the only substance I can see in Sean's comments is that their patent application is limited to things they did that they believe hadn't been done before," Winer said.

Microsoft's applications, which were filed June 21, 2005, were posted on the Web last week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The Trademark Office regularly posts patents 18 months after they are filed. The postings are available online as U.S. Patent Application 20060288011 and 20060288329.