Don McArthur passes along some huge news in the syndication world -- Microsoft filed for a patent today on the Windows RSS Platform, a common feed database and API that can be used by other applications to read, write and store RSS and Atom feeds:
The web content syndication platform ... can be utilized to manage, organize and make available for consumption content that is acquired from the Internet. The platform can acquire and organize web content, and make such content available for consumption by many different types of applications. These applications may or may not necessarily understand the particular syndication format. An application program interface (API) exposes an object model which allows applications and users to easily accomplish many different tasks such as creating, reading, updating, deleting feeds and the like. In addition, the platform can abstract away a particular feed format to provide a common format which promotes the useability of feed data that comes into the platform. Further, the platform processes and manages enclosures that might be received via a web feed in a manner that can make the enclosures available for consumption to both syndication-aware applications and applications that are not syndication-aware.
Although the invention has been described in language specific to structural features and/or methodological steps, it is to be understood that the invention defined in the appended claims is not necessarily limited to the specific features or steps described. Rather, the specific features and steps are disclosed as preferred forms of implementing the claimed invention.
My initial take is that this doesn't sound like a patentable invention, considering other software that exposes feeds, and the patent system has a chilling effect on software innovation.
One of the strengths of syndication is that you don't need an API to share feed data. Mark Pilgrim's Universal Feed Parser and the Planet Planet community aggregator both offer a lot of the functionality described in Microsoft's patent application.
I have to disagree about UFP and PP. I don't see how they covered any of the functionality described. Right now, I'm having DNS issues (or I should say, my ISP is having DNS issues), so I can't read the patent, although I've already skimmed it. When my DNS problems resolve, I'll comment further on The RSS Blog.
The Universal Feed Parser makes it possible to consume feeds regardless of format. Planet Planet is a feed aggregator that produces its own feeds. That's all you need for a syndication platform. Microsoft's placement of an API and object model atop that platform might be an innovation, but the patent seems to cover the entire shebang.
These days, it seems like companies do a lot better creating open APIs that can be adopted by others, not offering patented APIs that push others out of the same space.
Patents are out of control.
Big co's give incentives to their employees to register their work as more than it really is... The business logic is akin to having insurance against nuisance suits from small patent farmers.
There's always a lot of kerfuffle over the registration of one of these "prior art" atrocities but they are rarely used to stiffle real innovation since they are ultimately very difficult to enforce...
The biggest patent atrocities for me are RSA's patenting of some fundamental encryption math and the legal attack against the Blackberry.
The Microsoft RSS team will need to keep a pretty low profile in the commons until this dies down.
Ultimately, patents have been "gamed". They are a business tactic that can be used strategically and as a legal mechanism they have lost their way.
Are there no people in the US who review the current practice in the patent system against the original reasons for introducing patenting. In the first and only place patenting is there to protect investings in research and development of innovations! Why is this basic rule no longer taken into account in daily routines at the patent office?
Can anyone wake some people up to look into this matter? Why is this still the case? Please tell me we don't end up in an unhospitable world of patent terror by big and mighty companies. I hope there are people of reason to perceive the current practice has - to - change! Are there any congress members willing to take their responsibility for a justified and future proof reorganisation of the system?!