In Jan 2001 people at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) found that their new generation of hypertext markup language was infringing on a patent from Sun Microsystems. By a decree of the US patent office, Sun has become the owner of the idea of adding a search word to a link in such a way that the browser will scroll to that word. The developpement of the XPointer concept of the XML standard seemed in jeopardy. Sun's license terms are quite generous: they require than any competitor using this concept obliges himself in return to publish the concepts that he builds on it. Thus Sun supplies the W3C a weapon against "embrace and extend" tactics. But even if based on good intentions, this requirement may restrict the development of the new standard, and people at the W3C experts question whether a trivial software patent really gives Sun the right to impose such restrictions.
- XML.com 2001-01-17: XPointer and the Patent
- detailed analysis of the case
- A method executed in a network computer system for facilitating access to a specified portion of data stored at a remote location, the method comprising the steps of:
- retrieving a source document, the source document including hypertext links to other data on the network;
- displaying the source document;
- receiving input entered on the source document;
- determining whether the input comprises selection of a remotely specified named anchor;
- when the input comprises selection of a remotely specified named anchor, retrieving data indicated in the remotely specified named anchor and displaying a portion of the data specified in the remotely specified named anchor, wherein the specified portion of the data does not have a position marker associated with it.
- Already in 1999, the W3C was plunged into a crisis, because Microsoft,Intermind,P3P etc patented some of the principles involved in the hypertext principles which they were just formulating into a new standard. The W3C now has to devote a large part of its limited ressources to fight patents.
- The CEO of a company that plunged the WWW Consortium (W3C) into a patent crisis and later, under political pressure, granted everybody a free license to his patents, interprets this process as a great success of the patent system and of the "Free Market".
At another occasion
, Reed predicted that even Free Software authors will eventually benefit from the patent system.