Possible prior art for Microsoft XML patent found

Possible prior art for Microsoft XML patent found

Summary: The row over Microsoft's XML patent has taken another twist with the discovery of an open source application on Sourceforge for converting C++ programming objects into XML files that pre-dates the patent


An open source application could potentially invalidate a patent that Microsoft was granted for XML serialisation last week.

A ZDNet UK reader pointed out on Thursday that SXP, a library for converting C++ programming objects into XML files, was made available on Sourceforge in February 2000. Microsoft filed its patent for the conversion of programming objects into XML files in June 2001, over a year later.

Patents are granted by the patent office on condition that there is no prior art — that no-one has evidence for a similar technology that is older than the patent. If SXP does constitute prior art, it could invalidate the Microsoft patent.

Microsoft wouldn't say whether it believed the SXP library was an example of prior art, but instead pointed enquiries towards the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

"If there is prior art related to this patent, there is a process for third parties to submit that prior art to the USPTO. The public input mechanism is an important part of the USPTO’s patent review process and it is available to anyone to use," said a Microsoft spokesperson.

Microsoft was granted the patent for XML serialisation by the US patent office. A number of software developers and ZDNet UK readers have expressed anger that Microsoft was been granted this patent, claiming that it is obvious and in general use. But Microsoft defended itself, claiming that its innovations are "among the most significant across any industry".

The controversy over this patent began just days before Microsoft announced that the next version of Office will include new XML-based file formats for its Excel, PowerPoint and Word applications.

Microsoft said that companies can integrate Office documents with applications without any charge as it has granted a royalty-free licence for the XML-based file formats.

"Microsoft Office Open XML Formats are fully documented file formats with a royalty-free license. Anyone can integrate them directly into their servers, applications and business processes, without financial consideration to Microsoft," Microsoft said in a statement.

The wording of Microsoft's XML serialisation patent suggests that it could cover any application that converts between programming objects and XML files, so it is possible that Microsoft could charge a licence fee to anyone integrating XML with applications or business processes.

Microsoft said that it has not investigated potential links between the patent and the Office Open XML Formats.

"We have not analysed whether any of the claims in the XML serialisation patent are actually related to the Office XML file schema and any report that said there was a connection would be speculation," said a Microsoft spokesperson.

Topic: Apps

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • One way or another Microsoft wants strings attached and the USPTO is more then willing to play along. The two then leave it up to the rest of the world to try to undo (by their rules yet at your own risk, mind you) the mess they created.

    Wow. I wish I could do my taxes that way.
  • A simple search in Google for "XML serialization" also points to http://koala.ilog.fr/koml/
    Serialization of Java Objects into XML documents exists since 1998-1999 (it was even granted an R&D award !)
  • Yet another prior art from 1998:

    WDDX (Web Distributed Data eXchange)

    Date: Sep. 17, 1998

    Link: http://www.wddx.org

    Source Author or Organization: Allaire Corporation

    WDDX stands for Web Distributed Data eXchange. WDDX is a technology for exchanging complex data structures between programming languages. It has been designed with web applications in mind. WDDX consists of a standard for language-independent representation of instantiated data based on XML 1.0 and a set of serializer/deserializer modules for every language/technology that uses WDDX.
  • Everything Microsoft is prior art.
    The ability to make business on prior art is too.
    The thing that makes Microsoft (the one man ego) ridiculous is that he is like a car maker trying to patent the wheel.
    And well, it is not patented yet.
  • More prior art!

    The gSOAP software (http://gsoap2.sourceforge.net) serializes C/C++ data in XML. This work is based on an earlier project at Florida State University that was completed in 2000. The report is available on the Web: "A Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) stub compiler for C" a Master's report by Gunjan Gupta, 2000.
  • by reviewing/sorting some old Training XML Eamples

    from 1999 i found some old Mailings from 1999 and researched again if this stuff can be refound in the net:


    a) serializing xml php eric van der vlist
    b) serializing unserializing xml php eric van der vlist
    c) serializing xml php peter kock

    XML Serializing seemed in July 1999 to be well known stuff!

    Obviously eric van der vlist or even Peter Kocks hold a conversation about xml serializing of (php3) Objects and also over a Toolbox "WDDX" in July 1999 in the Mailing List of www.php.net. From there I printed it out in 1999.

    eric van der vlist stuff was even found at the w3c website. He may obviously be askable for more Details.
  • Is the prior art for Microsoft XML patent 6,898,604 published, and, if so, where?