News Release: World Wide Web Consortium Clears Patent Hurdle for Web Privacy

World Wide Web Consortium Clears Patent Hurdle for Web Privacy

Patent analysis confirms Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P) does not infringe
Intermind Patent

Relevant URIs:

News Release:
Patent Analysis

W3C Contacts

USA, Asia 
       Janet Daly, <>, +1.617.253.5884 
       Andrew Lloyd, <>, +44 1 27 367 5100 -- 28 October 1999 -- Removing a major hurdle to the
deployment of privacy-enhancing technology on the Web, the World Wide
Web Consortium (W3C) released a legal analysis finding that Platform for
Privacy Preferences (P3P) technology does not infringe a patent held by
the Intermind Corporation. P3P enables Web sites to inform users of
their privacy practices and will give users more control over the use of
their personal information on the Web. Widespread deployment of
P3P-compliant technologies was threatened when the patent holder sought
to charge royalties for products or services using the P3P
specification, despite the fact that the technology was developed in an open,
collaborative process by a number of W3C Members.

"Given the fundamental importance of privacy protection on the Web, and
our commitment to open standards, we decided that it was our
responsibility to provide the community with a thorough analysis of the
relationship between the patent and P3P," said Daniel J. Weitzner,
Technology and Society Domain Leader at the World Wide Web Consortium,
responsible for P3P development.

The complete analysis is available on the W3C Web site at

The Analysis

The Intermind Patent (U.S Patent No. 5,862,325) claims rights in certain
techniques of controlling interactions between clients and servers,
especially with respect to the exchange of personal information. Though
much of the Internet is based on such technologies, the assertion of
proprietary rights in this field had a chilling effect on the Web
community's plans for P3P deployment.

W3C retained noted patent attorney Barry Rein, of Pennie & Edmonds, to
evaluate the degree to which P3P does or does not infringe the Intermind
patent. Mr. Rein and his team, assisted by Joseph Reagle, W3C Policy
Analyst instrumental in the development of the P3P specification,
concluded that compliance with the P3P standard can be accomplished
without infringing Intermind's patent.

The Legal Argument

The legal conclusion that P3P technologies would not infringe the
Intermind Patent rests on a comparison of the technologies claimed in
the patent against the structure of P3P. The essential technology in
Intermind's patent consists of "communications objects" used as "control
structures" to direct client-server interactions. These control
structures use object-oriented programming techniques to transfer both
executable program instructions and associated metadata from client to
server. P3P does not infringe the Intermind patent because it specifies
no such control structure. The analysis prepared by Mr. Rein and his
team finds:

	.... P3P does not include the control structure of the '325
	patent claims for at least two fundamental reasons: (1) neither 
	the proposal nor the User Preferences file includes data, metadata, 
	and instructions organized using object-oriented programming to 
	encapsulate the data together with the instructions for using it, 
	and (2) neither the proposal nor the User Preferences file provides 
	location transparency or completely specifies a communications
	relationship. For these reasons, P3P-compliant Web services and 
	user agents do not literally infringe any claim of the '325 patent.

Web Community Support Critical in Patent Analysis

During the course of the review, W3C called on the Web community to
contribute information that might assist the attorneys in their work.
W3C received over 100 substantial technology contributions from
technologists all over the world. W3C would like to thank all who
contributed to the effort for their help.

The Importance of P3P

P3P's design keeps users informed of a Web site's privacy practices, and
allows users to control what information they choose to disclose to a
Web site, as well as how that information may be used. P3P privacy
disclosures and requests for information are expressed in the W3C's
widely deployed Extensible Markup Language (XML).

P3P technology was created by a consensus process involving
representatives from more than a dozen W3C Member organizations, as well
as invited privacy experts from around the world.

For the first time in the history of the World Wide Web Consortium, the
open technology development process came into conflict with intellectual
property claims. "We felt that we owed it to the Web community to clear
up the confusion over the Intermind patent," said Weitzner, "but hope
not to make this a regular practice."

About the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

The W3C was created to lead the Web to its full potential by developing
common protocols that promote its evolution and ensure its
interoperability. It is an international industry consortium jointly run
by the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (MIT LCS) in the USA, the
National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA)
in France and Keio University in Japan. Services provided by the
Consortium include: a repository of information	about the World Wide Web 
for developers and users, reference code implementations to embody and 
promote standards, and various prototype and sample applications to 
demonstrate use of new technology. To date, over 350 organizations are 
Members of the Consortium.


Received on Thursday, 28 October 1999 09:06:27 UTC