World Wide Web Consortium Clears Patent Hurdle for Web Privacy

Sally Khudairi (
Thu, 28 Oct 1999 11:31:29 -0400

> World Wide Web Consortium Clears Patent Hurdle for Web Privacy
> Patent analysis confirms Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P) does not
> Intermind Patent
> Relevant URIs:
> News Release:
> Patent Analysis
> W3C Contacts
> USA, Asia
> Janet Daly, <>, +1.617.253.5884
> Europe
> Andrew Lloyd, <>, +44 1 27 367 5100
> -- 28 October 1999 -- Removing a major hurdle to the
> deployment of privacy-enhancing technology on the Web, the World Wide
> Web Consortium (W3C) released a legal analysis finding that Platform for
> Privacy Preferences (P3P) technology does not infringe a patent held by
> the Intermind Corporation. P3P enables Web sites to inform users of
> their privacy practices and will give users more control over the use of
> their personal information on the Web. Widespread deployment of
> P3P-compliant technologies was threatened when the patent holder sought
> to charge royalties for products or services using the P3P
> specification, despite the fact that the technology was developed in an
> collaborative process by a number of W3C Members.
> "Given the fundamental importance of privacy protection on the Web, and
> our commitment to open standards, we decided that it was our
> responsibility to provide the community with a thorough analysis of the
> relationship between the patent and P3P," said Daniel J. Weitzner,
> Technology and Society Domain Leader at the World Wide Web Consortium,
> responsible for P3P development.
> The complete analysis is available on the W3C Web site at
> The Analysis
> The Intermind Patent (U.S Patent No. 5,862,325) claims rights in certain
> techniques of controlling interactions between clients and servers,
> especially with respect to the exchange of personal information. Though
> much of the Internet is based on such technologies, the assertion of
> proprietary rights in this field had a chilling effect on the Web
> community's plans for P3P deployment.
> W3C retained noted patent attorney Barry Rein, of Pennie & Edmonds, to
> evaluate the degree to which P3P does or does not infringe the Intermind
> patent. Mr. Rein and his team, assisted by Joseph Reagle, W3C Policy
> Analyst instrumental in the development of the P3P specification,
> concluded that compliance with the P3P standard can be accomplished
> without infringing Intermind's patent.
> The Legal Argument
> The legal conclusion that P3P technologies would not infringe the
> Intermind Patent rests on a comparison of the technologies claimed in
> the patent against the structure of P3P. The essential technology in
> Intermind's patent consists of "communications objects" used as "control
> structures" to direct client-server interactions. These control
> structures use object-oriented programming techniques to transfer both
> executable program instructions and associated metadata from client to
> server. P3P does not infringe the Intermind patent because it specifies
> no such control structure. The analysis prepared by Mr. Rein and his
> team finds:
> .... P3P does not include the control structure of the '325
> patent claims for at least two fundamental reasons: (1) neither
> the proposal nor the User Preferences file includes data, metadata,
> and instructions organized using object-oriented programming to
> encapsulate the data together with the instructions for using it,
> and (2) neither the proposal nor the User Preferences file provides
> location transparency or completely specifies a communications
> relationship. For these reasons, P3P-compliant Web services and
> user agents do not literally infringe any claim of the '325 patent.
> Web Community Support Critical in Patent Analysis
> During the course of the review, W3C called on the Web community to
> contribute information that might assist the attorneys in their work.
> W3C received over 100 substantial technology contributions from
> technologists all over the world. W3C would like to thank all who
> contributed to the effort for their help.
> The Importance of P3P
> P3P's design keeps users informed of a Web site's privacy practices, and
> allows users to control what information they choose to disclose to a
> Web site, as well as how that information may be used. P3P privacy
> disclosures and requests for information are expressed in the W3C's
> widely deployed Extensible Markup Language (XML).
> P3P technology was created by a consensus process involving
> representatives from more than a dozen W3C Member organizations, as well
> as invited privacy experts from around the world.
> For the first time in the history of the World Wide Web Consortium, the
> open technology development process came into conflict with intellectual
> property claims. "We felt that we owed it to the Web community to clear
> up the confusion over the Intermind patent," said Weitzner, "but hope
> not to make this a regular practice."
> About the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
> The W3C was created to lead the Web to its full potential by developing
> common protocols that promote its evolution and ensure its
> interoperability. It is an international industry consortium jointly run
> by the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (MIT LCS) in the USA, the
> National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA)
> in France and Keio University in Japan. Services provided by the
> Consortium include: a repository of information about the World Wide Web
> for developers and users, reference code implementations to embody and
> promote standards, and various prototype and sample applications to
> demonstrate use of new technology. To date, over 350 organizations are
> Members of the Consortium.
> ###