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.
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