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World Wide Web Consortium Clears Use of Platform for Privacy Preferences

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Thursday determined the Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P) technology does not infringe a patent held by the Intermind Corp.

P3P will allow Web sites to notify users of the site's privacy practices and will provide users with greater control over the use of their personal information on the Web.

The use of P3P-compliant technologies was halted when the original patent holder sought to charge royalties for products or services that utilize the P3P specification. The technology was originally developed in an open, collaborative process by a number of W3C members.

Intermind's patent claims the rights to certain techniques of controlling the interactions between clients and servers, especially in regards to the exchange of personal information. Since much of the Internet is based on such technologies, Intermind's claim of proprietary rights could have had a repressive effect on many Web developers' plans for P3P deployment.

Noted patent attorney Barry Rein, of Pennie & Edmonds, was hired to evaluate the degree to which P3P does or does not infringe upon Intermind's patent. Rein and his team concluded that compliance with the P3P standard can be done without infringing on the patent.

The analysis found that "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."