[uf-discuss] Legal implications of using Microformats

Manu Sporny msporny at digitalbazaar.com
Wed May 2 07:36:20 PDT 2007

M. Jackson Wilkinson wrote:
> If a patent were granted, then the holders could approach users of the
> now-patented "process" and hold them accountable for royalties and
> licensing fees.  All of a sudden, anyone from Microsoft to your small
> business can be threatened with, at minimum, a long legal battle.

Exactly the point - the Microformats community is not doing enough to
protect the implementors of their technology.

> This fear can be soothed fairly simply by releasing all work on the wiki
> into the public domain, or something of the sort.  All wiki pages could
> be under the LGPL, the GDL, or some other open licenses if not in the
> public domain.  There are several options here.

Right on the money, again.

> The challenge now is that every editor of the wiki would, I believe,
> need to either approve of the change in license, or their work would
> need to be stripped out of the wiki.  This kind of process has happened
> several times in open source software projects.  The microformats wiki
> may be sufficiently young as to make this somewhat possible, but it
> would certainly involve significant effort.
> It's one of those things that really needs to be handled right at the
> beginning.

Another brilliant statement! Deal with the problem now while it is
manageable - or later, when there are going to be multi-million dollar
lawsuits being bandied about. The Microformats community WILL be blamed
for not performing proper due diligence before placing their standards

> Again, this is all just based on my personal experience and research,
> and is not legal advice, but may be useful as a way of understanding why
> some may be concerned.

The reason this issue was raised was because we have authored and filed
several patents and know what we are talking about regarding the dangers
of submarine patents. If you want an "official" letter from a legal firm
specializing in copyright and patent law, stating how tenuous the
Microformats community's copyright and patent policy is - we could
arrange that. However, it is going to cost us a sizeable chunk of change
and we wanted to make sure that the community was listening before we
went out and arranged to have that happen.

-- manu

Manu Sporny
President/CEO, Digital Bazaar, Inc.

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