Microsoft Applies for RSS Patent

The technical world in which we actually work is relatively free of contest and struggle: you don’t have to arm-wrestle anyone to load up your copy of Word or argue for the right to check your email (though our partners — no, the other kind — if we have them, might prove me wrong). But beneath this serene “desktop” there’s continual conflict.

Most of us use RSS, at least I hope so, given Slaw’s role among tech leaders in law. We don’t think or care about who owns it; likely we don’t even formulate the thought that way: who could “own” something like RSS anyway. It seems, however, that yesterday Microsoft applied for a U.S. patent on RSS technology, claiming that their people invented it. There’s a decent discussion of the fuss it has (and hasn’t) created over at ZDNet’s Between the Lines.

There isn’t much “up-in-arms-ing” yet in the blogosphere, maybe because everyone’s suffering from patent-shock fatigue. Think back to the alarm that there was when the ubiquitous GIF graphic format was discovered to belong to UnisysThat patent has now expired.. Or when the news went around that Microsoft had got a patent for “double clicking.” Shock, horror, yawn. This is not to say that patents are irrelevant; just that their impact on our daily lives is more muted than we sometimes fear. I trust that whether Microsoft or Biap Systems, another competitor for a patent on RSS, actually obtain a patent, we’ll still be pumping out our feeds and you’ll still be reading them — partners willing, of course.


  1. Dave Winer’s made a small comment, but I’d expect a bigger blast to come from Dave. I’ll bet he’s steaming right now.

  2. According to Forbes:

    That’s far from the case, said Sean Lyndersay, RSS program manager lead at Microsoft.

    He wrote on a company Web journal that Microsoft is seeking patents only for “specific ways to improve the RSS end-user and developer experience” – not the technology as a whole. And applying for a patent, he said, is a common industry practice that doesn’t necessarily mean Microsoft will ultimately seek license fees.

    Many companies apply for a slew of patents for defensive purposes – to prevent others from later charging royalties on their own inventions and to trade with rivals who might also have their own arsenal of patents.