Apple's patent exclusion could roil Web standards

Apple has excluded a patent from the W3C Widgets 1.0 specification, which could have a stifling effect on the standards process.

On March 5 Apple dropped a small bombshell on the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards body, excluding one of its patents from the W3C Royalty-Free License commitment of the W3C Patent Policy for Widgets 1.0. The patent in question covers automatic updates to a client computer in a networked operating environment.

The announcement has generated no apparent response, yet could portend serious consequences. The Apple exclusion could mean that a W3C standard on widgets (or, really, any standard in the Web Application Group) at W3C that uses or includes something which touches this patent will either need to negotiate directly with Apple for rights, must pull the code out of publication until such time as a work-around to replace said functionality is created, or be de-published entirely.

None of these options is particularly appealing.

Apple gets a lot of credit in the open-source community, but this move, while understandable from the standpoint of responsible guardianship of intellectual property, shouldn't win it many friends.

If anyone can elaborate on the significance of this move by Apple, please do so in the comments below or by sending me an email. It's possible that this is more smoke than fire.

Follow me on Twitter at mjasay.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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