Apple Withholds Patent From Widget Standard

from the patents-and-standards dept

The idea of standardization around certain technologies makes some amount of sense. Once a standard is set at a lower level, it opens up plenty of innovation opportunities above that standard. However, in the past few years, we’ve seen a pretty massive problem with the combination of standards and patents. Basically, everyone starts looking for ways to somehow connect a patent to a standard — but they often try to hide the details so that, once the standard is set, they can start demanding everyone pay up for patent infringement. This is even more likely when companies come up with an agreement to pool patents in a royalty-free manner for the sake of the patent. Companies try to keep their patents out so they can later demand money. It’s way too common these days. The latest to do this appears to be Apple, who withheld a key patent on technology for online “widgets”, which has recently been standardized. The standard was set by the W3C, who asked for companies to commit their patents royalty-free in order to move the standard forward so that everyone could benefit. Instead, Apple held out a key patent, and can now start demanding people pay up. On the whole, Apple hasn’t been that aggressive in enforcing its patents, and hopefully that doesn’t change now — but it does show once again how important patents have become in the standards setting process, and how much trouble they can cause.

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Companies: apple

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Comments on “Apple Withholds Patent From Widget Standard”

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15 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

This doesn’t matter. I understand if you disagree with the ideas on this site. What I never understand is why you guys never argue with the points that are made?

And by the way, in one sense everyone sides with the winners. If Apple wins, they enjoy economic growth because so many people are buying their product. As a society we all enjoy the benefits of that growth. That’s what half the post on this blog are about. Remove patents and let the winners win. Using patents and copyright to enforce monopolies is a weak way to keep an inefficient business from losing.

TheStupidOne says:

Apple

It is in Apple’s best interest to have patents in reserve like this one but to not use them except in a “nuclear stockpiling” strategy. Apple is a huge target for patent lawsuits (not as big as google or M$ but still big) and can always use a few “defensive” patents. Hopefully that is their plan, but I won’t hold my breath.

another mike says:

sued for following the standard?

Can I build a “widget” to the W3C standard? Probably, but my programming skills are a bit rusty.

Can I release the widget into the wild or use it in another innovation? Absolutely.

Can I get sued by some troll popping up from the depths saying my widget violates its patent? More than likely. Increasingly likely it seems.

Can I use the fact I built to the standard and not to the patent as defense? Hmm. Someone needs to run through the first three so we can get a definitive answer on this from the courts.

nasch says:

Re: sued for following the standard?

I’m no lawyer, but I don’t see any reason to think adhering to a standard would be a patent infringement defense. If they were to allow that, they might as well abolish patents. Want to use someone else’s patent? Come up with a standards body and pass a standard using it, then follow the standard. Unless the standards defense includes a list of legitimate standards bodies, but that would tricky.

hello says:

Re: Re: sued for following the standard?

I’m no lawyer, but I don’t see any reason to think adhering to a standard would be a patent infringement defense.

Software patents are a bad idea.

Further to that, W3C members agree to issue a royalty-free license for technologies used in open standards. Everyone else has allowed that, but Apple has suddenly decided to not allow it for some reason.

This is not about patent infringement defense. This is about Apple not following the normal open standards route. Apple happens to be a member of the W3C, so your comment seems to be rather misguided.

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