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Microsoft Seeks RSS Patents; Blogosphere Worries

Discovery of the patents has led to conjecture among tech bloggers that the software giant may someday try to seek payment for use of the technology, which is related to receiving and organizing news feeds through a Web browser.
Microsoft has filed applications for two patents related to RSS, a popular format for online distribution of news and blogs, leaving some well-known developers wondering about its intentions.

Discovery of the patent applications has led to conjecture among tech bloggers that the software giant may someday try to seek payment for use of the technology, which is related to receiving and organizing news feeds through a Web browser. The applications were filed June 21, 2005, and posted on the Web Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The USPTO regularly posts patents 18 months after they are filed.

Developer Dave Winer, credited as a lead contributor to RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, brought up the existence of the patents in his blog, saying, "Presumably they're eventually going to charge us to use [the patented technology]."

"This should be denounced by everyone who has contributed anything to the success of RSS," Winer wrote.

Microsoft was not immediately available for comment on Friday, but Nick Bradbury, creator of the popular RSS reader FeedDemon, which was sold to NewsGator Technologies in May 2005, suggested that Microsoft may be seeking the patents to protect itself from lawsuits.

"There are plenty of sleazebags who file patent applications on obvious ideas, and then wait for someone like Microsoft to infringe those patents," Bradbury said in his blog. "In other words, companies like Microsoft often file patents to prevent having to shell out millions of dollars to predatory lawyers who haven't invented anything other than a legal pain in the ass."

Nevertheless, Bradbury agreed with Winer that Microsoft did not invent all the ideas covered in the patents, and called on the company to explain the purpose of the filings, and to be more specific as to what it claims to have invented.

Microsoft does not claim to have invented RSS itself in the patents, but only related technology. The postings are available online as U.S. Patent Application 20060288011 and 20060288329.