What’s up with Apple, patents, and the W3C?

If you read the report from the W3C Patent Advisory Group (PAG) regarding Apple's patent claim against the Widgets 1.0 specification, you will not only see the reasons why the PAG does not think the patent is relevant, but it also reveals some worrying things about the way Apple handled the whole thing. …

First of all, Apple had 150 days to file any patent claims. They waited until day 149 to do so:

The Widgets 1.0: Updates Specification had its First Public Working Draft published on 07 October 2008. This triggers a period of 150 days for exclusions, which ran until Friday, 6 March 2009. Apple excluded US Patent Nr. 5,764,992 on Thursday 5 March 2009.

One has to wonder why they waited until the last minute.

They were also anything but cooperative in their communication, or lack thereof, with the PAG. They attended one conference call, and that was it. They never even responded to several attempts by the PAG to contact them about the patent:

Apple attended the first call and recused themselves from any further participation or comment. Several subsequent attempts to get statements about the 992 patent were unfruitful.

So not only did they cause trouble for the Web Applications Working Group in the first place by filing an apparently groundless patent claim, they also revealed their patent claim at the very last minute, and refused to respond to repeated queries from the Patent Advisory Group after the first conference call.

Lastly, this whole process of analyzing the patent claim, gathering all the relevant data, and so on, has probably been quite expensive for other W3C members.

Perhaps there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for all of this, but why isn't Apple sharing this explanation with the rest of the world? Surely that would be in their best interest if they wish to continue to cooperate with others, and promote open standards.

Apple's actions as of late may be worrying for companies that choose to build their platforms on top of Apple-controlled projects. With no reasonable explanations from Apple, one might think that they are setting up patent minefield to protect their own interests.

But let's hope for more competition in the future based on open standards rather than trench warfare using patent claims.

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7 thoughts on “What’s up with Apple, patents, and the W3C?

  1. Maybe they are just trying to sabotage innovation elsewhere so they can try to go to market first with "fresh ideas"I think that Apple has a lot to profit by making themselves out to look like geniuses for things that have been developed elsewhere. I mean, how many people out there practically think that Apple invented MP3s and MP3 players?

  2. Oh dear, a narrow interpretation of motive. All that behaviour is explicable and doesn't demonstrate spite. We might want as many open standards as possible, but it's extreme to think all therefore ought to comply with them. You are free to create your own solution if you prefer it, otherwise we are living in some kind of fascist state. An IP owner will wait as long as possible before declaring claims that may be relevant to a standard, if those claims are part of a new application. When applying for a patent you are granted secrecy for a period if time. If you have made applications for patent that may be relevant to a standard, you are entirely free to preserve the advantage that gives as long as possible. It's your choice, and not the choice of others. With regard to Apple "blocking" standards progress, simply declaring a patent may be relevant is in no way blocking. It is simply the equivalent of saying "this may be relevant, we own it (or have applied for it etc)", it's then for the standards body to decide whether the various declared items are a problem. What would be worse would be failing to declare it so there is no opportunity for evaluation. Also declaring an application that may subsequently fail to be granted isn't in any way spiteful. All applications may fail! Are you saying therefore you shouldn't declare applications at all? How would that work to help the process ?

  3. Originally posted by thebasicmind:

    Oh dear, a narrow interpretation of motive. All that behaviour is explicable and doesn't demonstrate spite.

    Oh dear, a clueless troll who didn't pay attention.2009 – Apple blocked a W3C standard using a patent. They notified W3C at the last minute. The patent was found to be invalid (did not apply to the standard).2010 – Apple blocked a W3C standard using patents. They notified W3C at the last minute. The patents were found to be invalid (did not apply to the standard, and the other one was rejected by the patent office).2011 – Apple blocked a W3C standard using several patents. They notified W3C at the last minute. One of the patents is actually just a patent application.When Apple has repeatedly used patents to hold back standards, and those patents have been found to not apply or have been rejected, there's something wrong somewhere. Add to this Apple's refusal to even take part in discussions that could help clarify how they think the patents apply and their filing at the last minute, and it's obvious that they are doing this to undermine open standards.

    We might want as many open standards as possible, but it's extreme to think all therefore ought to comply with them. You are free to create your own solution if you prefer it, otherwise we are living in some kind of fascist state.

    Sure. You are free to behave like an asshole. That doesn't mean you can't be called out on it.Apple is now being calle dout on acting like assholes. While they may be within the law, they are certainly being assholes.

    With regard to Apple "blocking" standards progress, simply declaring a patent may be relevant is in no way blocking. It is simply the equivalent of saying "this may be relevant, we own it (or have applied for it etc)", it's then for the standards body to decide whether the various declared items are a problem.

    And when Apple refuses to even discuss this with the standards body, and help them understand how Apple thinks the patents apply? Oh, right. It's perfectly OK for Apple to act like assholes. I get it.

    Also declaring an application that may subsequently fail to be granted isn't in any way spiteful. All applications may fail! Are you saying therefore you shouldn't declare applications at all? How would that work to help the process ?

    Several patents that didn't actually apply to the standards Apple tried to block, several times.Yes, Apple should stop acting like assholes. They should stop blocking open standards using patents.Also, these are not the only affected standards. The patent group needs to bring in people working on other standards, and that means that those standards are slowed down.So by doing this Apple is basically slowing down several standards, not just the ones where they are using patents to stop the progress.

  4. May I recommend you try and avoid getting too emotional when placing a counter argument. It doesn't help your cause. Also throwing insults doesn't help either. Now please tell me precisely how Apple "blocked" the process and I think you will find it is you who didn't pay attention.

  5. Originally posted by thebasicmind:

    May I recommend you try and avoid getting too emotional when placing a counter argument.

    May I recommend you try and avoid being a rabid Apple fanboy incapable of making a coherent point.You already know how Apple blocked W3C. It's right there, in writing. You have so far failed to come up with anything to refute that.

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