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Now, IBM Patents a Standard!

From: Seth Johnson <seth.johnson@realmeasures.dyndns.org>
Date: Tue, 16 Apr 2002 19:43:15 -0400
Message-ID: <3CBCB713.DF07FFB@RealMeasures.dyndns.org>
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org, usenet@consulting.net.nz


IBM Drops Internet Patent Bombshell

By David Berlind
April 16, 2002 

A recent IBM patent claim could threaten royalty-free access
to a key Internet standard protocol backed by the United
Nations. The standard--called ebXML--is an XML-based set of
definitions for electronic transactions and business

IBM's patent claim was made in an intellectual property
disclosure filed in late March with the Organization for the
Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS). 

Executives from both the United Nations and OASIS said they
expected the ebXML specification to be royalty-free and
unencumbered by patent claims. Both said they were surprised
by the sudden appearance of the disclosure. 

According to IBM's disclosure statement, the company has one
patent and one patent application that it believes are
relevant to compliance with ebXML's Collaboration Protocol
Profiles (CPPs) and Collaboration Protocol Agreements (CPAs)

The document goes on to say that IBM is offering a license
on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms (RAND) to
implementers of either of the two ebXML protocols. The RAND
licensing model allows patent holders to charge royalties
for intellectual property. In contrast, a royalty-free
licensing model ensures that a protocol can be used, free of
all royalty payments, by anyone. 

"ebXML as an international standard is not very useful
without the CPP and CPA specifications," said David Burdett,
product manager for xCBL and XML standards with Commerce
One, a long-time supporter of the standard. "You can't do
anything but the simplest of messages." 

According to Ray Walker, steering group chairman of the
United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic
Business, "We developed ebXML under the assumption that it
would be royalty-free and we are surprised to see this come
out of the woodwork at this stage." IBM's Director for
e-Business Standards Strategy Bob Sutor, said Walker, "stood
up on numerous occasions and made unequivocal statements
that IBM's contributions were being offered to ebXML without
any restrictions. So it's surprising to find out now that
there is a patent that may or may not affect this work." 

The United Nations has been working with OASIS for two years
to produce a specification that addresseses the
incompatibilities of electronic documents produced by
different countries. 

OASIS CEO Patrick Gannon was surprised, too. According to
Gannon, "Two years ago, when IBM made its
contribution--known as Trading Partner Agreement Markup
Language--to OASIS and then ebXML, no encumbrances were
identified. We are certainly surprised that claims are now
being made." 

When asked if the company intended to follow through on its
disclosure by issuing licenses on a RAND rather than
royalty-free basis, IBM spokesperson Angela Lee said, "When
it comes to licensing, we evaluate everything on a
case-by-case basis, which is no different from any other
company in the industry. IBM participates in many standards
organizations and has complied with the rules of OASIS."
IBM’s Sutor was on vacation and unavailable for comment. 

Vendors building products that support the ebXML standard,
meanwhile are trying to figure what the IBM claim means to

"We potentially will have to pay royalty payments that we
weren't expecting to pay," said Commerce One's Burdett. "We
don't know because IBM has not made it clear. It would be
unfair of IBM if they decided to charge fees on something
which was essentially the collaborative effort of many, many
people." Fujitsu, IONA, Oracle, Sun, Sybase, and webMethods
are among the companies developing ebXML support in their

Bind Systems' CEO Colm Caffrey also assumed that the
specifications would be unencumbered by financial burdens.
Bind Systems, an Dublin, Ireland-based provider of software
that bridges Web services and business process models, is
listed as an OASIS member with products that support the
ebXML standards. According to Caffrey, "There was an
understanding that there wouldn't be any royalties
associated with the technologies contributed to the ebXML
specification and that includes CPA and CPP." 

Jim Boak, CTO of IONA Technologies, a provider of
ebXML-compliant Web services and application integration
software, wonders whether there had been a breakdown in
communication. "I've seen IBM do this in the past," said
Boak, "where they end up saying 'jeez, we didn't mean to do
that'. It doesn't make sense for them to spend years and
years donating to ebXML and then make it so nobody can use

News of IBM's claim comes on the heels of similar
disclosures regarding another set of XML-based protocols. As
previously reported by ZDNet, IBM and Microsoft have so far
not released, on a royalty-free basis, their intellectual
property rights to the certain essential Web services

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Received on Tuesday, 16 April 2002 19:59:42 UTC

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