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W3C moves to snuff Apple web patents

Er, Steve. HTML5 is royalty free

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The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has launched a bid to overturn two Apple patent filings that may apply to the HTML5 standard.

The web standards group – which is responsible for the HTML5 spec – has asked the world to submit prior art on US patent applications 11/432,295 and 7,743,336. The patents cover ways to secure online content, including documents, media, and software.

Apple has claimed that the technologies apply to the W3C's Widget Access Request Policy specification, and it has refused to make them available under the W3C's terms.

The W3C operates a royalty-free patents policy, meaning that any patents which apply to its specifications must be made available one everyone free of charge.

As patents expert Florian Mueller notes, the W3C can't formally adopt the "infringing" specification because this would break the group's rules.

Patent owners who surrender rights to that patent – as W3C members do – lose the legal right to enforce it for any later claims.

Apple is not just a card-carrying member of the W3C. It has been one of the biggest cheerleaders for HTML5, as Apple chief executive Steve Jobs sought to bury Flash. By not surrendering the claimed patent, Apple is reserving the right to sue for potential violations in the future, once the HTML5 spec is finished and becomes widespread.

Apple is no lightweight when it comes to lodging and fighting patent infringement cases or exacting royalties.

Apple has launched cases against Samsung (for allegedly ripping off the "look and feel" of the iPhone and iPad) and HTC (over a claimed 20 patent infringements of the iPhone's user interface, underlying architecture, and hardware), and it has filed a counter-suit against Motorola over six multi-touch and underlying operating system patents. Apple is also fighting Amazon and and Microsoft as it tries to claim a trademark on the "App Store" name.

Meanwhile, Apple just agreed to pay Nokia royalties over claimed patent infringement in a settlement that seems to have cost the company's top patent lawyer Richard Lutton his head. ®

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