GeoWorks' IP claims could kill WAP

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From: Sally Khudairi (
Date: Wed Jan 26 2000 - 06:57:22 PST

Top story in Computergram Int'l:

GeoWorks' Intellectual Property Claims Could "Kill WAP"

The surprise claim made by GeoWorks last week that it has essential
intellectual property rights (IPRs) for the wireless application protocol
(WAP) could kill the burgeoning wireless internet data transfer
specification, according to some industry figures and analysts. GeoWorks,
which is a member of the WAP Forum, has said that companies that develop
servers and software using wireless markup language - the basis of WAP -
will have to pay it a licensing fee of $20,000 annually - with additional
charges for WAP servers - if the companies have revenue of over $1m a year.
If GeoWorks succeeds with its IPR claim and WAP software companies have to
pay them fees they may start looking for cheaper alternatives.

"Personally, I think that that will kill WAP and lead to a mad scramble for
something that's free and universal," said Felix Lin, chairman of wireless
software developer AvantGo Inc. Seamus McAteer, director of web strategies
at Jupiter Communications, concurs, describing the GeoWorks licensing fee
proposal - particularly the clause that says that WAP server developers
should pay a $1 royalty for each seat or product including licensed
software - as insane.

GeoWorks says that its claim relates to a US patent it registered in June
1994, which relates to transforming wireless data so that it can be read on
variety of mobile devices with larger or smaller screens - especially
important for WAP servers pumping out data to a slew of different devices.
GeoWorks says that it followed procedure, putting the claim for essential
IPR to the WAP Forum in May 1999, and then got a team of lawyers to examine
the patent who found it was used in WML.

Bob Bogard, a spokesperson for GeoWorks said that last week's public
announcement of intellectual property rights was no surprise for the WAP
Forum. "They fully expected this sort of thing to happen," he said. However,
Greg Williams, chairman of the WAP Forum disagreed. He said he was surprised
by the public way GeoWorks put forward its claim. Companies in the WAP Forum
generally settle licensing and cross-licensing deals between themselves, he

As a member of the WAP Forum GeoWorks has to agree to "fair and reasonable"
licensing terms for any WAP IPR it has. The issue will be if GeoWorks sticks
to its guns and insists on the licensing fees and royalties it has laid down
in its public statement. McAteer thinks that WAP Forum members such as
Ericsson, and others will fight against the fees "tooth and nail."
"I'm very hopeful that fair and reasonable parties can work through this, it
would be a shame if something like this derailed WAP," Williams said.

Some other companies involved with the WAP Forum such as that
ComputerWire contacted refused to comment because they said they had not had
chance to fully examine GeoWork's claims yet. Williams says that the members
should get a "better sense" of the issues at the next WAP board meeting on
February 9 in Rome, Italy. However, he could give no timescale for the
'issues' being resolved.

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