XML patent saga ends with Microsoft withdrawing application

NZ Open Source Society hails decision; Microsoft says it wasn't influenced by opposition from Society

Microsoft has withdrawn an application for a patent for word-processing XML documents, several years after it originally filed the application in New Zealand.

The full name of the patent was: “Word-processing document stored in a single XML file that may be manipulated by applications that understand XML.”

The New Zealand Open Source Society released a statement yesterday, saying that it has been informed by the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand that Microsoft has withdrawn its application for the patent.

The statement reads: “The NZOSS applauds the decision of Microsoft to abandon its attempt to use the legal system to deter interoperability through its software patent on XML word processing documents.

“As we move into a future increasingly dependent on technology and software, we hope Microsoft understands that open standards and interoperability are central to a robust and healthy computing environment.

“The NZOSS has been conducting patent oppositions against two XML patents filed by Microsoft since 2003.

“The NZOSS felt these patents presented a clear and present danger to both interoperability between Microsoft’s products and that of other vendors, and potentially would have allowed Microsoft to force other companies into patent licensing agreements in order to implement word processing documents in XML.

“The opposition to both the Microsoft XML patents has taken eight years to resolve, and the time and commitment of many of our members.

“A few years ago, after opposing the first patent, we agreed to a substantial limiting of the claims of the first patent, to such an extent that we don’t believe anyone will ever infringe it.

“Subsequently we opposed the second patent, and have been moving towards a hearing on the opposition.”

The first patent was number 525484; the second, which the NZOSS had opposed and which was withdrawn, was number 536149.

NZOSS filed an objection to the first patent in 2005.

A statement to Computerworld from Microsoft corporate affairs manager Waldo Kuipers says: “The patent application was withdrawn after a routine business review of Microsoft’s patent portfolio identified this application as being of comparatively low priority in New Zealand.

“The Open Specification Promise that Microsoft made in 2006 means that this technology has been available to the community on a royalty-free basis for some time now.

“The equivalent patents have been withdrawn in around 30 countries. The decision to withdraw the patent application was not influenced by the NZOSS opposition and equivalents were not under opposition anywhere else.

“Our withdrawal of the patent is a routine part of portfolio management. Patents that are determined to have little or no business value are routinely withdrawn in order to achieve cost savings. Withdrawal of the patent application does not imply any change to our view that innovators should have the option to patent their inventions.”

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