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Microsoft today promised to never charge for its patented technology in 35 web services specifications undergoing ratification.

The company say it won't enforce the patents for developers and companies either selling or distributing Microsoft-owned or Microsoft-controlled patents as part of the specifications under the Open Specification Promise (OSP).

OSP covers different implementations of SOAP and a list of specifications devised chiefly with IBM in association with other IT vendors for web services using the WS- prefix.

It is not entirely clear how far OSP applies to future versions of SOAP and the WS- specifications, but Microsoft said on its website: "To the extent that Microsoft is participating in those [standardization] efforts, this promise will apply to the specifications that result from those activities (as well as the existing versions)."

It added the specifications "could be used for free, easily, now and forever".

Microsoft says the promise is a "simple and clear way to assure that the broadest audience of developers and customers working with commercial or open source software can implement specifications through a simplified method of sharing technical assets, while recognizing the legitimacy of intellectual property."

OSP comes in the wake of several years of squabbling among big vendors over development of the specifications for web services, seen as the framework for service oriented architectures (SOAs). Microsoft and IBM formed one camp around WS- while others, primarily centered around Sun Microsystems, lead an alternative camp and worked through existing standards bodies.

In times gone by, many questioned if Microsoft would reserve the right to charge for using its IP in the WS- specs, a move that would have hurt vendors and users and damaged uptake of web services. Sun championed royalty-free use of IP.®

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