On the fifth day of Christmas, Microsoft gave to me Rrrrrrrrrr Ssssssssssssss Sssssss?

On the fifth day of Christmas, Microsoft gave to me Rrrrrrrrrr Ssssssssssssss Sssssss?

Summary: Just when you thought you'd seen it all, Microsoft has apparently applied to the United States Patent and Trademark Office for a patent on the Really Simple Syndication protocol (RSS). The blogosphere hasn't worked itself up into a tizzy quite yet.

TOPICS: Patents

Just when you thought you'd seen it all, Microsoft has apparently applied to the United States Patent and Trademark Office for a patent on the Really Simple Syndication protocol (RSS). The blogosphere hasn't worked itself up into a tizzy quite yet. Although Dave Winer has already posted a Tale of Corporate Atrocity, Techmeme still lists the item well below "the fold" and it hasn't shown up in any of Digg's top or upcoming lists (as best as I can tell). Technorati -- a service that would probably cease to be if Microsoft started charging royalties on every execution of RSS -- has no reflection of the news item on its home page either.

Some of what's been written so far indicates that Microsoft has actually been awarded the patent. But the USPTO link that everyone seems to be using is to the application text and doesn't indicate whether the patent has yet to be awarded or not (more digging please). A patent on RSS would likely result in an infringement by Atom (another XML-based syndication format) and given the rigors of standard setting that Atom has been through, I can't help but think that, at the end of the day, there's enough prior art to make neither patentable.  

If there's a patent on file for RSS, then maybe it's this one awarded just days ago to Biap Systems Inc. But so far, a cursory search (do your own) of the USPTO's patent database does not reveal Microsoft's application as being approved as of yet. The application was filed last year and, as can be seen from the Biap patent, it takes about four or five years before a patent is awarded by the USPTO. Via instant messenger, I pinged Tim Bray who was deeply involved in Atom. Said Bray:

It will be interesting to see if the USPTO shows any evidence of having overcome the problems that resulted in their track record of obliviousness to prior art.

I've checked in with Dave Winer who routinely gets the most credit for bringing RSS to life and turning it into the force of the Net that it is and am waiting to hear back. I'll follow up if I hear from him. In mean time, it would not be good news for a single company to be in control of RSS.  

Topic: Patents

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  • ... and Al Gore should get the Internet patented :-)

    Zoli Erdos
  • Patent oursevles into extinction

    Will emerging markets that really don't give a crap about patent and copyright steal our lunch money while we litigate ourselves to death? Probably.
  • Unbelievable

    I'm not a huge fan or hater of Microsoft, but if they get this patent, I can see Web 2.0 getting smothered in it's infancy.

    If Microsoft waited this long to apply for the patent, I don't think they should get it, I also don't recall them having much to do with the creation of rss. I hope the Patent Office takes into account the huge impact this would have on millions of websites and their owners.

    So if Microsoft gets the patent, and the royalties, do companies get to sue them for destroying a huge number of websites online that are currently powered by rss who can't afford the royalties?

    Ahhh Microsoft, once again overstepping their bounds. No one company should be in control of a format that has been free for such a long time now and people have become dependent on.
    • It's actually the opposite of this

      MS is doing this in defense of getting sued. They are concerned about submarine patents and patent trolls. Like all large companies have to be now. MS is in favor of patent reform actually.
      • ho ho ho, merry Christmas. I'm Santa and

        I work for Microsoft and I'm going to give away RSS to all the boys and girls on Christmas morning, just as soon as that mean ole' open source grinch lets us have all the patents on it. Ho ho ho.
  • Is the patent for RSS or an RSS processing platform

    As far as I can tell (and I am not a patent lawyer) from reading the application (http://tinyurl.com/ylfbnt), it is not for RSS but for an RSS processing platform - which sounds remarkably like the platform in Vista funnily enough:

    "A content syndication platform, such as a web content syndication platform, manages, organizes and makes available for consumption content that is acquired from the Internet. In at least some embodiments, the platform can acquire and organize web content, and make such content available for consumption by many different types of applications. These applications may or may not necessarily understand the particular syndication format. An application program interface (API) exposes an object model which allows applications and users to easily accomplish many different tasks such as creating, reading, updating, deleting feeds and the like."

    I am not suggesting for one moment that necessarily changes the legitimacy of patenting such a capability: that comes down to the patent lawyers at the USPTO.
  • RSS has been around long enough

    and is used widely enough that shouldn't RSS be considered public domain by now?
  • Hang on, that is NOT what I read.

    Microsoft is NOT patenting RSS, they are patenting how the Windows client works with them. Yes, there is a BIG difference.
    • Patents are not brand specific

      As far as patenting software goes, it's invariably about patenting process and patents of process are implementation-independent. It doesn't matter whether it is done with software, vegetables, or air. If your implementations resembles the patented process and your not the patent holder, you could be infringing. What, process-wise, about a Windows-specific implementation of RSS feed digestion would be different enough from other implementations of feed digestion to warrant a patent? It seems as though it would be relatively impossible for a range of implementations NOT to infringe.

      • Why does that matter?

        Yes I understand how software patents work. The quesion is, are you suggesting that should someone build a better reader/aggregator/display system that they should not be allowed to patent it?

        Or are you saying that should others think MS has a better system they should be allowed to copy it without regard to IP ownership?
      • Let's get specific

        I too was appalled when I read the original article, and had a reaction similar to yours, and many of the comments here (specifically the Al Gore <http://talkback.zdnet.com/5208-10532-0.html?forumID=1&threadID=28582&messageID=533172&start=-1> comment popped into my head even before finishing the article...).
        But then, like NoAx, I actually read the application. It's not for RSS, not even for an RSS reader, aggregator, or any other similar software - its for the [b]platform[/b]. I've actually heard about that, I think it was here on ZDNet, that MS is putting platform support into Vista (I think it was). I.e. RSS (and other protocol) feeds are built into, managed, and provided by the OS, allowing [i]any other[/i] application to consume them. Including MS Office apps.

        Yes, this is new, and yes, it IS innovative - though not completely unimaginable. NOBODY else currently provides this (if there is one, please enlighten us). Again, this is not about aggregation - it's about providing for it in the [i]platform[/i]. Call it an API, call it a managed object model, call it macaroni (never did get that yankee doodle fella...), they are the first to provide esuch functionality.
  • Well, on reflection

    yes, they seem to be applying to patent a reader of rss.

    Which might mean they want to patent their own specific rss reader, but isn't it likely that the processes their reader uses are used by other rss readers, too? When/if they get the patent for it, won't they then be able to legally file cease and desist orders against all who use the processes that they are currently using, or, more likely, force unfavorable license agreements on them?

    This does seem to be an attempt at grabbing more code that doesn't belong to them and claiming it as their own. I know that there are posters here who will never admit in public that they might believe that MS would or could ever do anything that might involve over reaching, but in this case it would appear that these people are wrong.

    MS, come up with some sort of process of your own invention, and then patent that. Stop grabbing open source stuff like it's a wallet someone left on the sidewalk that you need to take hold of and spend as you see fit. It's not yours, it is there for everyone. Leave it, and get on with creating IP which will in turn create value which will in turn get your stock moving again.

    • Whoa up there.

      "MS, come up with some sort of process of your own invention, and then patent that."

      Read the article again. As noted they filed for this patent with in days of saying they would build RSS support into their products. (OS and Office apps.) To my knowledge that is a new idea/process as I see no other Office Suite that provides this capability.

      One can assume this will be build into an API that programers may use to build their own applications or add RSS feeds to existing applications. Again, that is something no one else is doing.
      • Again, it sounds like they are talking about

        building rss reader capability in to software. That is nothing new, and seems to be a glaring grab at stealing. You and I will just have to agree to disagree on this. You are clearly incapable of seeing this like I do, and I can only say much the same is true of me re your POV.
        • Can you show me?

          Can you show me an Office suite that aggregates RSS feeds and allows interaction with them within th eapplications? Not to play dumb but I know of none.
          • Can you show me

            a Microsoft that doesn't have a history of using questionable business practices to advance it's own interests, or one that has not had it's stock price stalled for too long?

            Call me what you want, but I have had too much experience with this company to not be suspicious of it when they try to patent something they did not think of. If they want to protect a software app and the way it interacts with rss feeds, then all they need is the copyright that obtains on the day the software is written.

            The argument that they need to patent the rss process to protect themselves is disingenuous at best. I would describe it as a straw man. It sounds good, but has no substance.
  • This has to do with functionality in IE7

    Doesn't it?
    I love to see this though. MS tries to patent a process by which they hendle RSS and Atom feeds in a certain way and the rush to judgement begins.
    IBM tries to patent advertising on the internet and there's one small blog.
    Apple tries to patent a hierchial menu on the iPod and it's genius.
    I know you have to write to your readership, which the polls indicate is mostly MS crapslingers, but once in a while it gets a bit tedious.
  • Technorati isn't a browser

    Technorati would cease to exist? Please. The patent is specific to the browser, and last time I checked Technorati didn't make their own browser.
    • Does Technorati

      digest information from RSS feeds and display it in your browser?

  • FYI

    You seemed unsure if the patent was awarded or not. It has not been awarded. The two patent applications have been put up on the public application site for public review, comment and challenge. This happens after 18 months of private review. Once awarded (assuming challenges fail, which I believe they will not) it will go up on the patents awarded site.