Report of W3C AdHoc Meeting, 19 August 2003, San Francisco, CA, USA

By now, most of those reading this know of the recent court case of
Eolas v. Microsoft in regards to US Patent 5,838,906.

The patent claims to cover mechanisms for embedding objects within
distributed hypermedia documents, where at least some of the object's
data is located external to the document, and there is a control path to
the object's implementation to support user interaction with the object.
The implementation can be local or distributed across a network, and is
automatically invoked based upon type information in the document or
associated with the object's data. See the patent claims for details and
for the precise scope of the patent. This patent may potentially have
implications for the World Wide Web in general, including specifications
from W3C.

In the near term, Microsoft has indicated to W3C that they will very
soon be making changes to its Internet Explorer browser software in
response to this ruling. These changes may affect a large number of
existing Web pages. W3C does not yet have any indication of what action,
if any, other vendors of Web tools might take.  In the longer term,
should the court decision be upheld in its current form, some
participants suggested that other action might be required.  W3C has
made efforts to contact the patent holder to determine their future
intentions, but has not received any reply.

W3C believes that it is important for the Web community to begin now to
consider and contribute to the range of technical options available.

As a result, W3C invited its Members as well as other key commercial and
open source software interests to attend an ad hoc meeting, hosted by
Macromedia, on Tuesday 19 August in San Francisco, California.  The
objective of the meeting was to begin to evaluate potential near-term
changes that might be implemented in browsers, authoring tools, and web
sites as a result of the court case.

There was widespread agreement that a solution that minimizes the
effects of changes to Web software, Web sites and the user experience
was needed.  Microsoft presented several options that it has under
consideration, and benefited from constructive discussion of these
options.  In addition, the meeting participants strongly supported clear
communication on this matter, including establishing a developer Web
site and mailing list to coordinate approaches for changes to Web sites
and software, and providing early releases of software and
documentation.   Further details on these will be forthcoming.

To enable the Web community to consider and contribute to the technical
options, W3C has created a mailing list for public discussion on this

Interested participants may send mail to:

The mailing list is archived:

W3C is preparing a FAQ for public distribution, and has already
initiated consideration of longer-term, standards-based solutions.

Please note that W3C has not completed any formal analysis of the patent
in question or the impact of the federal court opinion. W3C is not
providing any legal advice to our Members or the public on the direct
impact of recent developments, nor are we, by holding the meeting this
past week, intending any implication about validity or applicability of
the patent. Those implementing technologies in this arena will have to
seek their own legal counsel on particular implementations of W3C

W3C will continue to coordinate with the Web software vendors and
organizations, and keep our Members and the public informed as these
efforts progress.

For Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director, and Steve Bratt, W3C COO;
Janet Daly, Head of Communications

Received on Wednesday, 27 August 2003 15:22:13 UTC