Apple patent claim threatens to block or delay W3C specification

There's some potentially bad news from the open standards front.

Early last month, it became clear that Apple might be causing trouble for the W3C Widgets specification. They are unwilling to make patent 5,764,992 (W3C information), which covers automatic software upates, royalty-free if the Widgets Update specification is found to use anything covered by the patent. This basically means a lot of additional work for the Working Group at the W3C, and might slow down the process of finalizing the widgets specification.

So as a response to this situation the W3C has put together a Patent Advisory Group, meaning that several companies are forced to spend a lot of time and money trying to figure out if Apple's patent claim actually applies, and if it does, what to do about it.

With the recent rumours of Apple getting all lawsuit-happy over patents, what are they up to exactly?

For Opera's position on software patents, take a look at Opera's vision statement.


34 thoughts on “Apple patent claim threatens to block or delay W3C specification

  1. A software program running on a computer automatically replaces itself with a newer version in a completely automated fashion, without interruption of its primary function, and in a manner that is completely transparent to the user of the computer.

    Err… they patented automatic updates? (O_o)

  2. Thank God I live in EU! No stupid software patents here! But sometimes decisions made in USA slow down technical progress here too and that sux!

  3. Automatic updates already exist for ages. So, how come they can patent it? I thought that you couldn't patent something that already exists? or does it work different for software patents?I always hated anything that had something to do with apple (that includes quicktime and itunes 😮 ) and this 'patent' isn't going to make it any better :irked:

  4. Apple is not using this in Mac OS’ Dashboard and I don’t believe they use it on the iPhone either. Apple are probably just flexing muscles or protecting some ‘innovation’ in Snow Leopard.:dragonfly: I hope auto-update can be a part of the specs, so each widget author does not need to invent some update schema on their own. That is just a mess, and it is unreliable.

  5. Mike writes:

    I can't remember automatic updates in 1995 🙂 So Apple make patent before before others start to use it… sirnh1, looks like you didn't read something except subject !

  6. Rike writes:

    @MikeEven if Apple was the first to do it (which they weren't, automatic updates existed before the patent application), it's quite amazing for a company to refuse to allow royalty-free use of something for open standards. Everyone else allows it, so why has Apple suddenly decided to undermine open standards?

  7. @MikeI did read the entire article, I did not read the text behind all of the links :doh: (I only noticed that there is a lot of text behind them)(and 1995 isn't mentioned on this page, so I figured they claimed a patent for auto updates just now 😮 …)

  8. Anonymous writes:Interesting. Looks like Erlang/OTP has the same mechanism, implemented ages ago 🙂

  9. Just one more reason software patents are silly. The biggest problem is that given a basic idea, it's easy to go from point A to point B in software.A. I need to update my softwareA1. Send user new installer (stop current program, run installer, start program)A2. Send user update data (software pulls in data, puts it in right place, restarts)B. Software pulls down update data and applies it liveNow, I haven't read the patent (yet), but each of my steps is a small, obvious leap of logic. You can get from A to B by doing evolutionary changes. Sure, going from A to B in one step is a big one… but breaking it up, not so much.

  10. Anonymous writes:

    The patent requires the software update to take place while the user is using the program that is being updated, and the user must not notice that update has taken place.This isn't implemented anywhere, as far as we know. Does iPhone OS 3.0 update this way?

  11. Anonymous writes:

    Hate the game, not the player.:)If Apple didn't patent this, they'd be screwed by some other company making the patent. Crazy thing about it is that the patent should never have been granted. Additionally, prior work would seem to invalidate it as well.

  12. AppleSucks writes:

    "If Apple didn't patent this, they'd be screwed by some other company making the patent."That's the most stupid excuse so far. How do all the other W3C members manage to license patented technologies royalty-free for use in open standards?Apple allowing for royalty-free use in an open standard does NOT invalidate the patent, and does NOT open up for other companies suing Apple over it any more than what Apple is doing now.

  13. There's prior art relevant to this in US patent # 5,790,664, which is being litigated against several companies (not including Apple so far). There's a brief writeup on it and others (PDF) at patent could easily be cited by W3C against Apple. It would at the very least cover any automated update that involves a network or the Internet.

  14. HJ van Rantwijk writes:Apple Inc. can be such an cocky company – I can prove to have written an automatic update feature before Apple Inc filed their patent. My software was written in 1986/1987 for the Elite BBS, which was published in Commodore Dossier so Apple need to relax.

  15. Anonymous writes:

    @deadHarlequin, what "anti-american, anti-entrepreneurship comments"?Just because someone disapproves of this blatant abuse of software patents doesn't mean that he is neither anti-american nor anti-entrepreneurship.

  16. Originally posted by Apple:

    …in a completely automated fashion…

    Easy solution. User is asked and has to click "O.K.".No more COMPLETELY automated. 🙂

  17. Anonymous writes:

    You know what? I love my Mac Book Pro, my Mac OS X, iWork, iLife, iTunes and my iPhone 3G. I don't give a fuck about W3C.

  18. Anonymous those have nothing to do with the W3C I also love my MacBook Pro, the W3C sets the web standards so that no matter what browser or OS you use you can get the same content.

  19. Anonymous writes:

    "I don't give a fuck about W3C."Spoken like a true braindead apple fanboiiii.

  20. Anonymous writes:

    "Spoken like a true braindead apple fanboiiii."Hey, I'm another fanboiiii yet I understand the importance of the W3C and its specifications. Don't generalize, some are less braindead than others. :pThis is totally uncool but Apple is within its rights. Members can exclude "essential claims" from the royalty-free licensing requirement. Let's hope that the Patent Advisory Group will sort things out.

  21. Anonymous writes:Maybe Apple is just tired of getting sued twice a day for patent violations and decided to see how the rest of the world likes it.

  22. jz1492 writes:

    Apple has given away more than most computer companies. But it is a business, so it needs patents to get a competitive advantage, not just for survival but also for domination.Yes, domination. You europeans may cringe now.Free capitalism has given the world its standard of living, despite huge growth in population. Socialism has only brought hunger and stagnation.I say give Apple credit. If it is patented, find another way. Innovate. Is that so difficult? Patents promote innovation by forcing other people to think outside the box.

  23. Anonymous writes:You shouldn't worry too much. The patent is buggy. According to this patent, you can rename and move a file after having deleted it…

  24. With all the pointless flaming going on here, I wonder if any of there commenters even care about open standards? :whistle:.

  25. Anonymous writes:

    Funny how this inbred redneck jz something goes on about capitalism yet conveniently forgets that software patents are an artificial government-granted monopoly on ideas and thus wholly anti-capitalist…

  26. lulzy writes:

    jz1492 is a clueless redneck."Apple has given away more than most computer companies."Blatant lie."Yes, domination. You europeans may cringe now."What's with the racist, jingoist hatred of Europe? Are you so inbred that you have failed to notice the W3C office in the US?"Free capitalism has given the world its standard of living, despite huge growth in population. Socialism has only brought hunger and stagnation."What on earth does Socialism have to do with anything? Apart from your obvious Socialist leanings, of course."I say give Apple credit."Credit for being Communist bastards who abuse a government-granted monopoly to prevent innovation and competition?"Patents promote innovation by forcing other people to think outside the box."Wrong. Software patents stop innovation by forcing people to work around stupid and trivial crap instead of actually coming up with something new.

  27. jz1492 writes:

    My most sincere apologies to all readers, especially those in Europe. I regret of the way I represented my own frustrations with the world's economy. I shouldn't have faulted Europeans with anything at all.Nonetheless, I still believe Apple has contributed more to world standards and the advancement of popular computing than most, while remaining true to its capitalist roots.It truly amuses me that free capitalist principles like private property and the pursue of capital amassment, and even domination, under fair competitive rules and laws, is spun so that it is labeled communism, and the free for all creation and distribution adopted by the open community and imposed by group and media pressure on the rest of the industry is somehow interpreted as capitalism.Patents are just the recognition by free governments of the right of individuals and businesses to their own intellectual property.Copying a patented program or device is NOT against the law. Patents are not enforced by governments. Only recognized.You may copy all you want for personal use, but if you are planning on massive distribution, either for financial or reputation gain, the offended party may take you to court for using their [government recognized] property for all that it's worth."…trivial and stupid crap…" is not patentable. And if you are actually "…coming up with something new" then you are safe.

  28. ww writes:

    Even Microsoft has contributed to "world standards", and yet they screw open standards in the butt. The same apparently goes for Apple. Apple has NOT contributed more than most. In fact, they are becoming among the guiltiest at abusing government-granted monopolies to undermine competition.Private property? Ideas are not private property. Only a diehard commie would argue that anyone can own ideas (thoughts). It's extreme-collectivism at its worst.Indeed, the whole notion of owning ideas can only be done with the backing of the government. Thus, it's as far from capitalism as you can get.The inbred redneck is making the rest of us look stupid by coming across as yet another ignorant moron American with more opinion than brain.

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