W3C Wants to Invalidate Apple’s Widget Patents

Published on July 11, 2011
by John Paczkowski

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is taking Apple to the mat over its refusal to allow some of its intellectual property to be included in the W3C’s widget standard.

Over the weekend, the group issued a call for prior art invalidating two Apple patents#7,743,336, which describes a widget security system, and application #20070101146, which covers “safe distribution and use of content.”

The W3C had hoped Apple would grant it a royalty-free license for that IP so it could be included in its Widget Access Request Policy specification for Web apps, but evidently Cupertino is reticent to do so. This is problematic for the W3C, because the Apple patents at issue here are essential to that specification. According to W3C rules, standards must be royalty-free and unencumbered by patents.

In other words, it can’t adopt the Widget Access Request Policy specification unless Apple gives up some of its rights to those patents. And at this point, the company has no plans to do so. It’s not entirely clear why, but presumably Apple feels they’ll come in handy at some point in the future, perhaps in litigating some current or future lawsuits.

So the W3C really has no other recourse than to attempt to invalidate Apple’s IP or give up on the standard entirely. Said intellectual property activist Florian Mueller, “In this case, the W3C hopes to do away with Apple’s relevant patent and patent application. It’s an unpleasant situation for the W3C to have to confront one of its members, especially such a large and powerful one, but sometimes this can’t be avoided.”

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