Adam L. Beberg
Wed, 17 Apr 2002 09:19:55 -0700 (PDT)
Never, and I mean NEVER use any technology you cant prove is more then 17
years old. This story is being repeated over and over where TCP has been
totally firewalled away in favor of something new. Too funny.
IBM drops patent bombshell
By David Berlind
Special to ZDNet
April 17, 2002, 7:20 AM PT
Tech Update: A recent IBM patent claim could threaten royalty-free access to
a key Internet standard protocol backed by the United Nations. The
standard--called ebXML--is an XML-based set of definitions for electronic
transactions and business collaboration.
IBM's patent claim was made in an intellectual property disclosure filed in
late March with the Organization for the Advancement of Structured
Information Standards (OASIS).
Executives from both the United Nations and OASIS said they expected the
ebXML specification to be royalty-free and unencumbered by patent claims.
Both said they were surprised by the sudden appearance of the disclosure.
According to IBM's disclosure statement, the company has one patent and one
patent application that it believes are relevant to compliance with ebXML's
Collaboration Protocol Profiles (CPPs) and Collaboration Protocol Agreements
The document goes on to say that IBM is offering a license on reasonable and
non-discriminatory terms (RAND) to implementers of either of the two ebXML
protocols. The RAND licensing model allows patent holders to charge
royalties for intellectual property. In contrast, a royalty-free licensing
model ensures that a protocol can be used, free of all royalty payments, by
"ebXML as an international standard is not very useful without the CPP and
CPA specifications," said David Burdett, product manager for xCBL and XML
standards with Commerce One, a long-time supporter of the standard. "You
can't do anything but the simplest of messages."
According to Ray Walker, steering group chairman of the United Nations
Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business, "We developed ebXML
under the assumption that it would be royalty-free and we are surprised to
see this come out of the woodwork at this stage." IBM's Director for
e-Business Standards Strategy Bob Sutor, said Walker, "stood up on numerous
occasions and made unequivocal statements that IBM's contributions were
being offered to ebXML without any restrictions. So it's surprising to find
out now that there is a patent that may or may not affect this work."
The United Nations has been working with OASIS for two years to produce a
specification that addresseses the incompatibilities of electronic documents
produced by different countries.
OASIS CEO Patrick Gannon was surprised, too. According to Gannon, "Two years
ago, when IBM made its contribution--known as Trading Partner Agreement
Markup Language--to OASIS and then ebXML, no encumbrances were identified.
We are certainly surprised that claims are now being made."
When asked if the company intended to follow through on its disclosure by
issuing licenses on a RAND rather than royalty-free basis, IBM spokesperson
Angela Lee said, "When it comes to licensing, we evaluate everything on a
case-by-case basis, which is no different from any other company in the
industry. IBM participates in many standards organizations and has complied
with the rules of OASIS." IBM's Sutor was on vacation and unavailable for
Vendors building products that support the ebXML standard, meanwhile are
trying to figure what the IBM claim means to them.
"We potentially will have to pay royalty payments that we weren't expecting
to pay," said Commerce One's Burdett. "We don't know because IBM has not
made it clear. It would be unfair of IBM if they decided to charge fees on
something which was essentially the collaborative effort of many, many
people." Fujitsu, IONA, Oracle, Sun, Sybase, and webMethods are among the
companies developing ebXML support in their solutions.
Bind Systems' CEO Colm Caffrey also assumed that the specifications would be
unencumbered by financial burdens. Bind Systems, an Dublin, Ireland-based
provider of software that bridges Web services and business process models,
is listed as an OASIS member with products that support the ebXML standards.
According to Caffrey, "There was an understanding that there wouldn't be any
royalties associated with the technologies contributed to the ebXML
specification and that includes CPA and CPP."
Jim Boak, CTO of IONA Technologies, a provider of ebXML-compliant Web
services and application integration software, wonders whether there had
been a breakdown in communication. "I've seen IBM do this in the past," said
Boak, "where they end up saying 'jeez, we didn't mean to do that'. It
doesn't make sense for them to spend years and years donating to ebXML and
then make it so nobody can use it."
News of IBM's claim comes on the heels of similar disclosures regarding
another set of XML-based protocols. As previously reported by ZDNet, IBM and
Microsoft have so far not released, on a royalty-free basis, their
intellectual property rights to the certain essential Web services