Friday, March 25, 2005

Microsoft speaks out against PubPat

Another industry standards / patent issue is brewing [recall Rambus v. Infineon; Unocal]

from eWeek:

"This isn't the first time we've seen these groups [the Public Patent Foundation and the Software Freedom Law Center] make accusations about Microsoft patents," said David Kaefer, Microsoft's director of intellectual property licensing, in an interview with

"It's been the case before that people have offered misleading claims, primarily because those people oppose software patents but use issues like this one to sow uncertainty about the patent process itself."

The brouhaha broke March 22, 2005, after a lawyer for Kenyon & Kenyon brought to's attention patent USP 6,101,499, filed in 1998 and issued to Microsoft in 2000. [LBE note: hardly a news flash.]

The patent covers technology that bears "more than a passing similarity" to IPv6, one of the backbones of the Internet, according to the lawyer, Frank Bernstein.

Bernstein represents a company—whose name he declined to disclose—that offers open-source products, he said. Bernstein said he also brought the patent to the attention of legal organizations before contacting

PubPat—the Public Patent Foundation—was quick to point out that it was the company or companies who hired Kenyon & Kenyon that brought the matter to light, as opposed to organizations with a hidden agenda.

"We didn't complain about this," said PubPat Executive Director Dan Ravicher. "Private companies complained about this first. We weren't the ones to raise the yellow flag. [Microsoft is trying to put my organization and [the Software Freedom Law Center] in the middle."

At the crux of the matter are allegations that Microsoft failed to disclose prior work done by the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) on the technology in question when it applied for the patent in April 1998.

PubPat's investigations have uncovered several references to the technology that count as prior art to the patent, Ravicher said, including several RFCs (requests for consensus) from the IETF's IPv6 working group.

Several Microsoft engineers who were involved in the IETF working group also show up as inventors listed on the patent, Ravicher said—a circumstance that may rule out the possibility that Microsoft's left hand didn't know what its right hand was doing.

"Some of the names of inventors on the patents were involved in the committee," said Ravicher, in New York. "It's not like some group of different people were inventors of the patent. There was overlap."

Microsoft's Kaefer denied any hanky-panky on the part of engineers.

"Microsoft is not trying to patent the Internet," said Kaefer, in Redmond, Wash. "We believe we have followed all the normal procedures to file for this patent. We work very closely with the IETF and other standards bodies on a daily basis and take our standards responsibilities very seriously."


Blogger Lawrence B. Ebert said...

It looks like the IEEE has some problems with "industry standards" and patents.

From Scott M. Fulton at BetaNews:

A bitter dispute between Mobile WiMAX partners Intel and Motorola, and wireless broadband partners Qualcomm and Kyocera, over the possible adoption of a Qualcomm technology as wireless broadband standard 802.20 forced the IEEE yesterday to order the complete reorganization of the 802.20 Working Group.

Both sides in the dispute have been crying foul since last November, when Intel and Motorola alleged that a merged standards proposal to the Working Group blending elements of Qualcomm and Kyocera technologies violated IEEE procedures. Suspicion over the way these complaints were handled by the Group's chairman at the time, Jerry Upton, led the companies to allege that he was actually a paid consultant for Qualcomm - an allegation which Upton later admitted.

A report released Sept. 19, 2006 by the Standards Board of the IEEE Standards Association (SASB) stated, "After completing our investigation and hearing from interested parties, the SASB unanimously concluded that the existing IEEE 802.20 process was not effectively serving the IEEE-SA goal of high-quality standards achieved through a fair and open process."

10:18 AM  

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