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Stop the insanity: Microsoft patents RSS readers and parsers

Isn't the USPTO supposed to run at least a quick check for prior art before granting a patent? I guess the answer is no hope the answer is yes because Microsoft has filed for and apparently was awarded a patent on something called a "content syndication platform" for which there is (and was at the time of filing) a giant amount of prior art. 

The two key claims on the patent application on the USPTO site seem to be #1:

A system comprising: one or more computer-readable media; computer-readable instructions on the one or more computer-readable media which, when executed, implement: an RSS platform that is configured to receive and process RSS data in one or more formats; and code means configured to enable different types of applications to access RSS data that has been received and processed by the RSS platform.

Sounds like a feed reader, like Net-News-Wire, News-Fire, Feed Bandit , Feed Daemon, PlanetPlanet, Radio Userland, O'Reilly Meercat, etc. etc. All of which existed before Microsoft started prowling around RSS.

And the other is #10:

A system comprising: one or more computer-readable media; a set of APIs embodied on the computer-readable media, the set of APIs comprising one or more methods that enable at least one application to access RSS data that has been processed and stored in a feed store; and wherein said at least one application does not understand an RSS format in which the RSS data was originally embodied.

Now we're talking about a feed parser, which parses all formats of feeds and presents to a programmer in an abstract way. You know, like the Universal Feed Parser, ROME and the Jakarta Feed Parser, which again, all existed well before Microsoft started working with RSS and Atom technologies.

Some of the guys listed on the patent are Microsoft bloggers, so perhaps Sean, Walter and the other Microsoft Team RSS bloggers can explain how Microsoft can claim to have invented the RSS feed reader and RSS feed parser.

Via John Robb's blog. Dave Winer has posted about it too.

Update: Niall Kennedy has posted an excellent In depth analysis of Microsoft's patent claim that explains that the patent has not yet been awarded, digs into each of Microsoft's claims and discusses the prior art.


It's a dog-eat-dog world out there. This makes me feel like a can of Alpo.

Posted by Mike Levin on December 21, 2006 at 06:36 PM EST #

Calling these patent descriptions a 'feed reader' and 'feed parser' oversimplifies them. They seem to be carefully worded to describe the Windows RSS Platform - and the key is the use of the word 'applications'. They aren't trying to patent RSS, or reading RSS, or storing RSS, or anything. They are trying to patent the entire process of reading, parsing, and storing RSS for multiple applications to utilize. Add on the API for developers and so on. This isn't simply an attempt to patent RSS, it is a patent for their specific assembly of an RSS platform.

Posted by Matt on December 22, 2006 at 10:49 AM EST #

Calling these patent descriptions a 'feed reader' and 'feed parser' oversimplifies them.
I disagree. They're trying to be as abstract as possible, claiming as much ground as they can, which is typical (at least in the patents I've seen). IANAL, but the way the claims are worded they're generic feed readers and feed parsers will infringe on Microsoft's patent.

Posted by Dave Johnson on December 22, 2006 at 11:29 AM EST #

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?!

Posted by Frank Heijkamp on December 22, 2006 at 10:32 PM EST #

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