Apple delaying web standard with patent royalty claim

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Often touting web standards itself, Apple is being accused of holding back an important web specification by demanding royalty payments on a patent for updates.



The World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, has notified members that Apple believes the new W3C Widgets standard might use technology in a US patent it owns for automatic software updates. According to the Cupertino, Calif.-based electronics maker, the Widgets standard's approach of checking for new versions and then updating over the web mimics a similar technique in its own 1998 filing.



As a result, Apple believes that it's owed royalties for implementations that include the update feature. It's here, however, that the dispute arises. Under the W3C's membership policies, those within the standards group -- including Apple -- are required to offer their patents royalty-free, which the company has so far refused to do, according to the report.



The impasse has lasted for roughly a month and has led the W3C to start an investigation through a Patent Advisory Group just to check if Apple's claims are accurate. With Apple declining to budge, fellow W3C participants like browser developer Opera are increasingly worried that the Widgets standard may have to be delayed to alter code in a way that avoids treading on the automatic update patent.



"This basically means a lot of additional work for the Working Group at the W3C, and might slow down the process of finalizing the widgets specification," Opera wrote on Tuesday. "What are they up to exactly?"



The roadblock is appearing at an unusual and partly self-contradictory time for Apple. Just days before its patent dispute with the W3C began, the company released a beta of Safari 4 for whom a key objective was keeping up to multiple new web standards, including the core HTML 5.0 and CSS 3.0 specifications that should represent the future of web design.



However this cooperation on web standards or the Patent Advisory Group might unfold, Apple itself isn't saying; the firm has so far remained silent on the matter.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 123
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    This seems awfully trifling and somewhat pathetic on Apple's part as the patent was described. I wonder if Apple isn't really holding out to get leeway in some other patent issue that the W3C holds, basically offering a trade of patent tech.
  • Reply 2 of 123
    jocknerdjocknerd Posts: 28member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    This seems awfully trifling and somewhat pathetic on Apple's part as the patent was described. I wonder if Apple isn't really holding out to get leeway in some other patent issue that the W3C holds, basically offering a trade of patent tech.



    The W3C doesn't hold patents. Its a standards organization. Software patents are evil.
  • Reply 3 of 123
    kreshkresh Posts: 379member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Under the W3C's membership policies, those within the standards group -- including Apple -- are required to offer their patents royalty-free, which the company has so far refused to do, according to the report.



    Somehow I don't think we are getting the full story. Apple's membership in the W3C's consortium does not give the consortium unlimited access to every patent that Apple holds. How did the widget process start and evolve, I am not familiar with it, but that seems to be where the issue lies.



    What if the group wants to wander into mobile device browser based UI's, and since Apple is a member, they make a clone of the iPhone experience. Should Apple just hand over the patents, shut up and play nice because they are members of the consortium?
  • Reply 4 of 123
    pg4gpg4g Posts: 383member
    The question that must be asked though is: is Apple more known for their bargaining or their being painfully stubborn?



    I'd say the later. Apple may just think that the widget setup is key and thus want to make money out of it.
  • Reply 5 of 123
    eaieai Posts: 417member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kresh View Post


    Somehow I don't think we are getting the full story. Apple's membership in the W3C's consortium does not give the consortium unlimited access to every patent that Apple holds. How did the widget process start and evolve, I am not familiar with it, but that seems to be where the issue lies.



    What if the group wants to wander into mobile device browser based UI's, and since Apple is a member, they make a clone of the iPhone experience. Should Apple just hand over the patents, shut up and play nice because they are members of the consortium?



    http://www.w3.org/Consortium/Patent-...ec-Obligations



    "As a condition of participating in a Working Group, each participant [..] shall agree to make available [..] any [patent or patent application] related to the work of that particular Working Group." (modified for clarity)



    This would only apply if Apple were a member of the WebApps working group.
  • Reply 6 of 123
    pg4gpg4g Posts: 383member
    Kresh, it might just be patents in regards to Web Technologies, but I think you are right. We don't have the full story.
  • Reply 7 of 123
    kim kap solkim kap sol Posts: 2,987member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jocknerd View Post


    The W3C doesn't hold patents. Its a standards organization. Software patents are evil.



    All patents are evil. They've held rapid progress back since their inception. And for what, for the benefit of corporations? So they can milk their customers for a decade?
  • Reply 8 of 123
    kreshkresh Posts: 379member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by eAi View Post


    http://www.w3.org/Consortium/Patent-...ec-Obligations



    "As a condition of participating in a Working Group, each participant [..] shall agree to make available [..] any [patent or patent application] related to the work of that particular Working Group." (modified for clarity)



    This would only apply if Apple were a member of the Widgets working group.



    It appears that the patents must be offered to be included in the standard, and if included they must be royalty free. Did Apple offer the patent, or did the group implement a process which Apple declared infringement on a patent they have not offered to the group?
  • Reply 9 of 123
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,743member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kim kap sol View Post


    All patents are evil. They've held rapid progress back since their inception. And for what, for the benefit of corporations? So they can milk their customers for a decade?



    "All patents are evil."



    I LOL'd hard at that. Thanks.
  • Reply 10 of 123
    wheelhotwheelhot Posts: 465member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kim kap sol View Post


    All patents are evil. They've held rapid progress back since their inception. And for what, for the benefit of corporations? So they can milk their customers for a decade?



    Not exactly, if there is no patent, what is stopping company A from doing an exact copy of Company B. Would you love to see all the money you spend on R&D ended up being copied by another company? I don't think so. And without patent, give me reason why would company innovate if their innovation ended up being copied within a period of time.
  • Reply 11 of 123
    I think what happened here is Apple vs Apple.



    Someone submitted the Widget standards, including the automatic update, and someone else at Apple (probably a lawyer) noticed it and stopped it due to Apple having a patent on it.



    So, if Apple gives up the patent, will they lose more to competition than they would gain by offering it to the WC3 standards body? Now Apple has an internal argument on it's hands. They can't license it for free to the WC3 because they won't allow it.



    Frustrating to say the least.
  • Reply 12 of 123
    Read the article again: Apple has worked very hard to make sure that their automatic update procedure secure, both in the sense that it is private, and in the sense that it works dependably.



    I can see them offering patent-license to the W3C for a lot of things - but I can't see them giving away trusted access to the heart of their system. Secure software distribution is arguably more important to Apple than widget updates are to the W3C and I can understand them not wanting to go through reinventing that particular wheel simply to avoid inconveniencing the consortium. Given all the open-source love in the world, there's no reason for apple to give this particular kitten away.
  • Reply 13 of 123
    nano_tubenano_tube Posts: 114member
    Truth be told, I am disappointed with Apple.

    I am disappointed with their hardware, I am disappointed with their pricing, I am disappointed with their emphasis on gadgetry and now this.
  • Reply 14 of 123
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kim kap sol View Post


    All patents are evil.



    Not exactly
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kim kap sol View Post


    They've held rapid progress back since their inception.



    That last bit there is completely untrue. Ingenuity ebbs and flows: the US Patent Office nearly shut down in 1844, when it was widely believed that human invention had exhausted itself...and that no more real progress could be expected.



    Since then, human invention and ingenuity have exploded - and more than once, and in more than one area. Patents were in place the whole time. Show me where that has hurt us.



    As for SOFTWARE patents - they have a sketchier history; even so, Apple suffered badly from its failure to protect its IP in the 70s, and one thing we have consistently seen since the return of The Steve is an aggressive stance toward infringements on their IP, both in devices and equipment, and in the famous look-&-feel issues - OS X in particular.
  • Reply 15 of 123
    eaieai Posts: 417member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Capt. Obvious View Post


    Read the article again: Apple has worked very hard to make sure that their automatic update procedure secure, both in the sense that it is private, and in the sense that it works dependably.



    I can see them offering patent-license to the W3C for a lot of things - but I can't see them giving away trusted access to the heart of their system. Secure software distribution is arguably more important to Apple than widget updates are to the W3C and I can understand them not wanting to go through reinventing that particular wheel simply to avoid inconveniencing the consortium. Given all the open-source love in the world, there's no reason for apple to give this particular kitten away.



    It's got absolutely nothing to do with how any existing system Apple has is implemented, it's about the theoretical way you can implement an update system. This is all described in the patent itself, so there's no issue of secrecy.



    Anyone with some basic knowledge of programming and cryptography can write a secure update system, they could still infringe Apple's patent without knowing it.



    That's really where the patent system falls appart a bit - when the same thing is invented indepdendently by two different people. It wasn't designed to limit that but it does, and sadly, anyone can say "I didn't know someone else had invented that!"
  • Reply 16 of 123
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,371member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by eAi View Post


    It's got absolutely nothing to do with how any existing system Apple has is implemented, it's about the theoretical way you can implement an update system. This is all described in the patent itself, so there's no issue of secrecy.



    Anyone with some basic knowledge of programming and cryptography can write a secure update system, they could still infringe Apple's patent without knowing it.



    That's really where the patent system falls appart a bit - when the same thing is invented indepdendently by two different people. It wasn't designed to limit that but it does, and sadly, anyone can say "I didn't know someone else had invented that!"



    Patents were designed to prevent that second person from marketing their device if they "invented" something after the patent was issued, or, now, applied for.



    That;s the whole point.



    I don't agree with Kim either here.



    Patents have made progress possible. Without patents, progress would have stalled. It's a lot cheaper to just rip off someone else's work than to spend the time and money to come up with something better.



    I also don't think that software patents are bad. I do think that they should hold for a shorter time. It seems to me that the software industry turns over in about seven years.



    My proposal is that software patents last for that amount of time, seven years. Seven years seems like a long time, but it's not. It would be long enough for people and companies to benefit from it, and short enough so that it wouldn't strangle the industry.



    It's only fair that those doing inventing in either hardware or software get a head start on making money from it. most licensing fees, and royalties, are reasonable.



    The fact that some don't want to pay for them doesn't make them unreasonable.



    And I've never understood the idea that for my business, I do all the work, and spend all the money, and you get it for free to make money from. Where's the right in that? That's just as bad as the patent trolls.
  • Reply 17 of 123
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 1,806member
    I would assume they are referring to patents that are filed and created while working on a particular technology for the WC3... Any company is allowed to patent their technology, but must make it freely available to the WC3 group. If one of the companies in the group creates a technology that impedes on another's patent that was created outside the group, I would think that other company has an obligation to protect its technology.



    I seriously doubt ANY company would join any group that forced them to forfeit to ALL their patents for the sake of the group. Sounds a bit cultish, eh? It also sounds like the group is overstepping their bounds, but like others have said, we don't really know the full story.



    Also, I find it funny that people are so quick to jump all over Apple on this, especially given Apple's history and contributions to web development. This is obviously a different issue, otherwise, Apple would've been fine with it. But of course, everyone likes a scandal, so they tend to create one where there isn't. I suppose this is a site for speculation, so I guess it is okay to be prejudice?
  • Reply 18 of 123
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,743member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Nano_tube View Post


    Truth be told, I am disappointed with Apple.

    I am disappointed with their hardware, I am disappointed with their pricing, I am disappointed with their emphasis on gadgetry and now this.



    So which alternative would you prefer?
  • Reply 19 of 123
    cdong4cdong4 Posts: 194member
    This is about as ridiculous as CompuServe wanting to collect royalties for GIF images.
  • Reply 20 of 123
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,371member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by CDonG4 View Post


    This is about as ridiculous as CompuServe wanting to collect royalties for GIF images.



    The only problem with that was it was tried after the cat got out of the bag.



    If they exercised their rights from the beginning, then it wouldn't have been an issue.



    This is what happens when companies try to be altruistic in the beginning and give away their inventions, only to find that others are incorporating them in products where they are making money from it.



    They then feel as though they are being ripped off, and try to get something back. But, it's too late.



    MP3's are licensed. It didn't stop that from being widely used. Same thing with JPEGs.
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