RealTime IT News

Microsoft Locks Up XML Patent

The speculation as to whether Microsoft intends to patent XML technology is over.

Microsoft has been granted United States patent 6,687,897 for "XML script automation."

The patent, awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on February 3, appears to deal with basic XML functionality. Specifically, it describes a method for unpacking multiple scripts contained within a single XML file.

According to the application filed by Microsoft, the patent involves "systems, methods and data structures for encompassing scripts written in one or more scripting languages in a single file."

"The scripts of a computer system are organized into a single file using Extensible Language Markup (XML)," Microsoft's patent document continues.

The document explained that each script is delimited by a file element and the script's instructions are delimited by a code element within each file element. When a script is executed, the file is analyzed to create a list of script names or functional descriptions of the scripts.

One or more scripts are selected and the code for those scripts is extracted from the file and executed by the appropriate scripting process, the document said. The scripting process that executes a particular script is identified from the scripting extension attribute that is included in the XML format of the file.

Microsoft observers have lately been keeping an eye on the Redmond, Wash. software company to see whether or not it intends to add its own proprietary technology to the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) XML standard.

Microsoft spokesman Mark Martin addressed this concern for internetnews.com.

"Microsoft, like other software companies, frequently files patents to protect innovative ideas," Martin explained. "In the area of XML, Microsoft has contributed significant resources to develop XML as an industry standard and it has partnered with many companies to promote the standard's broad industry success.

"While the XML standard itself is royalty free, nothing precludes a company from seeking patent protection for a specific software implementation that incorporates elements of XML. This does not, in any way, change the royalty-free nature of the XML standard itself."

However, recent talk has revolved around a patent application believed to have been filed in New Zealand in 2003. That patent involves the use of XML in word documents.

The just-awarded U.S. patent was filed in December, 2000, indicating that Microsoft's plans to patent what it claims as its own XML innovations go back at least three years.