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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Filed Under: patents, standards, widgets
Companies: apple

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  1. identicon
    nasch, 15 Mar 2009 @ 10:22pm

    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.

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