Microsoft says it doesn't want to own RSS

Written by Brett Thomas

December 28, 2006 // 4:36 p.m.

Tags: #microsoft #rss

The land of patent and copyright law is grey area indeed. The entirety of intellectual property and the legal protections of are an area of great interest in the technology field - particularly where simple, efficient concepts are concerned. Things like RSS - which Microsoft has recently filed several patents to stake claim to.

Now, it appears MS is attempting to define why it's seeking the patents, albeit the word "poorly" comes to mind. According to the RSS Program Leads over in Redmond, Microsoft is in no way trying to claim all rights to RSS technology, or to charge anyone to use it. Instead, Microsoft is looking to patent "specific ways to improve the RSS end-user and developer experience."

In business, it isn't at all uncommon for a company to throw out a boatload of patents in order to protect what it's about to invest in. However, the digital realm becomes a bit more perilous - Microsoft is seeking patents for parts of current RSS technology in order to improve it. In other words, it wants to make sure parts are exclusive before it goes investing in them, just to find out that its work is now open-source because it holds no rights over RSS to begin with.

The problem is, once someone owns the patent to something, all gloves come off - that product is owned by the company, who can then charge license fees for it. With a technology as broadly useful and simplistic as RSS, that can be an uncomfortable reality. This is made even worse by the fact that RSS is a fairly mature technology, and many companies already use it as part of a larger information exchange - so MS would have to approve those uses.

Of course, Microsoft also doesn't have the best track record with sharing - so no matter how noble the company's statements attempt to make it sound, there are many of us standing by looking skeptical. The entire patent system seems a bit flawed - and apparently judges agree, as the Supreme Court is looking into making it harder to patent technologies.

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