SVG & XPointer - When I write SVG code can I be sued?

It seems to me that anyone creating any but the most trivial Scalable Vector 
Graphics, SVG, code may arguably be breaching a patent held by Sun 
Microsystems. And therefore, in theory, would be open to being sued. I hope 
that this email will elicit a definitive response from Sun that no such 
danger exists - for me or for anyone else creating SVG code.

I am going to try to ask this question in as balanced a way as possible. Some 
recipients will be aware that there has recently been an expression of 
anxiety e.g. on the XML-DEV list regarding the implications of a Sun 
Microsystems patent for the further development of XPointer. Some have gone 
as far as to suggest that XPointer will be "DOA" as a result.

Hitherto I have seen no expressions of concern relating to the impact of 
Sun's patent on the use of XPointer in SVG.

But when writing anything but the most trivial SVG code we cannot avoid using 
"XPointer" syntax e.g. to access a filter using syntax along the lines of 
"filter:url(#MySpot)" - the so-called "bare bones" XPointer syntax.

Some recipients may shrug and say "So what?". But there is a bizarre logic 
that underlies the possibility of being sued for writing SVG code.

The W3C XPointer specification acknowledges the validity of a Sun patent. 
Whether or not that is correctly acknowledged is a side issue at present. As 
a consequence when anyone either "downloads" or "implements" XPointer ... as 
we must when creating SVG ... we "agree" to provide Sun with our code no 
later than the time we make that code available to anyone else.



So, in creating for example which includes an 
XPointer reference to a filter I have arguably breached Sun's patent and 
theoretically, could be sued for doing so. Despite the fact that I did not 
know of the "requirement".

At the time I posted that page I hadn't been made aware of the "legal" 
requirement to notify Sun of my code. Am I now open to be sued?

The current wording of the XPointer Working Draft and the tacit (or perhaps 
explicit) acknowledgement of the validity of Sun's patent seems to impose a 
huge legal burden on anyone using SVG.

I am no lawyer but I understand that such conditions would be thrown out in a 
UK or British Commonwealth court. But Sun might choose to sue me or anyone 
else in, for example, a US court since ... given the World Wide Web ... my 
"illegal" code can be viewed from there.

I don't want to overstate the danger. I hope that this email will elicit from 
Sun and it's legal representatives a definitive statement that no danger of 
being sued exists for those who "implement" XPointer by writing SVG code.

If SVG is soon to move forward to a Proposed Recommendation SVG developers 
need to be sure that no cloud of legal uncertainty hangs over this matter.

I would value informed responses from recipients at Sun or at the W3C.

Andrew Watt

Received on Thursday, 18 January 2001 11:25:13 UTC