The patent, "Method and apparatus for writing a Windows application in HTML" (Hypertext Markup Language), describes Microsoft's way of opening up HTML applications in a window free of navigation and other interface elements, known as "chrome," and browser security restrictions.
One example of an HTML application at work in Windows is the "Add or Remove Programs" feature in the control panel.
On a page about HTML applications on its Developer Network site, Microsoft described the technique as a way to harness HTML's power while bypassing its network and interface-related restrictions.
"HTML Applications (HTAs) are full-fledged applications," the page reads. "These applications are trusted and display only the menus, icons, toolbars, and title information that the Web developer creates. In short, HTAs pack all the power of Microsoft Internet Explorer--its object model, performance, rendering power, protocol support, and channel-download technology--without enforcing the strict security model and user interface of the browser."
Microsoft has been on the defensive against another patent for running applications in the context of a Web browser, the plug-in patent owned by the University of California and licensed to one-man company Eolas. After sustaining a $521 million infringement judgment, Microsoft rallied Web standards groups, partners, competitors and patent foes to fight the patent, which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Microsoft on Tuesday called any comparison between the two patents apples and oranges.
"This patent has little or nothing to do with the Eolas matter," said Michael Wallent, a general manager in Microsoft's Windows division. "It's simply about opening separate windows for applications outside the browser, and it's built into Windows today."
Wallent said that Microsoft has no current plans to enforce the patent.
Microsoft this month said it will, letting other companies more easily use its patented technologies.