As posted by ZDNet's Martin LaMonica, a small company called Scientigo is trying to lay claim to XML, of all things. That's sort of like someone trying to claim royalities from HTML or ASCII usage.
Thus, the SOA and Web services world now has its own "SCO."
SCO; Scientigo. Darl McBride; Doyal Bryant (CEOs of SCO and Scientigo). Are these companies and their leaders almost anagrams, or what?
However, if Scientigo were to prevail in any way, the implications could go much deeper than SCO with the Linux kernel. While a majority of companies run Linux somewhere, many implementations tend to be peripheral applications, such as firewalls and e-mail servers. XML, however, is now embedded in just about every mission-critical enterprise application package on the market today.
David Berlind got the reaction of Tim Bray, co-inventor of XML to the news. Bray's response: "The notion that an application filed in January 1997 can cover a technology whose first public draft was in November 1996, and which was based on a then-ten-year-old ISO standard, seems ridiculous on the face of it. So one assumes that they're not trying to put a tollboth on XML itself, it must be some particular B2B application of it or some such. There are no specifics of what they're claiming on their Web site."
It was inevitable that with so much standardized and shared intellectual property being made freely available in the Web services and SOA space, some company would emerge from the shadows with a pack of lawyers.
Scientigo may or many not prevail, but the problem is that it's likely the industry will be peppered by such suits in the future. Last December, the industry held its breath when a set of key e-commerce patents from bankrupt Commerce One was sold off to a mysterious investment group called JGR Acquisitions. Anything could have happened from that point on. It turned out that the secretive group was actually buying the patents on behalf of Novell, which has a good track record for supporting open standards and open source.
I recall the observation of AMR Research's J. Paul Kirby, in reaction to IBM's pledge earlier this year to provide the methods behind 500 of its patents to anyone that wants to use them, at no charge, with no fear of legal repercussions. (My original post about "IBM's patent surprise" is here.)
It's going to be interesting to see how IBM responds to Scientigo. Kirby made the point that IBM's promise makes it harder for other companies to monetize Web services transactions. "It is also a further signal that anyone wanting to handicap open source through litigation will have to get through IBM first."
Both IBM and Novell see which way the wind is blowing, and know that it's in their own best interest -- as well as everyone else's -- that Web services transactions are free and above legal wrangling. Or else, the promise of interoperable, system-to-system computing breaks down.