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Re: (Second) Last Call for XPointer 1.0

There's a much more significant issue raised in this draft for the 
first time than the question of how to map namespace prefixes. It's 
also come to light in this draft that Sun claims a patent on some of 
the technologies needed to implement XPointer.


I think this is particularly offensive because Eve L. Maler, a Sun
employee, serves as co-chair of the XML Linking Working Group and a
co-editor of the XPointer specification. As usual, Sun wants to use this
as a club to lock implementers and users into a licensing agreement that
goes beyond what Sun and the W3C could otherwise demand. For instance
they want to force you to grant your own modifications and experiments
back to the W3C.

The specific patent is United States Patent No. 5,659,729, Method and
system for implementing hypertext scroll attributes, issued to Jakob
Nielsen in 1997.'5,659,729'.WKU.&OS=PN%2F5,659,729&RS=PN%2F5,659,729

(Apologies if that URL gets wrapped by my mailer; there's a direct link
from today's Cafe con Leche, http://www.ibiblio.org/xml) The patent was
filed on February 1, 1996. It claims:

     Embodiments of the present invention use a new extension to the HTML
     language to support remotely specified named anchors. A remotely
     specified named anchor, when embedded within a source document,
     instructs a browser program to access a portion of a destination
     document indicated in the remotely specified named anchor. When the
     browser program reads a remotely specified named anchor such as
     <a href=http://foo.com/bar.html/SCROLL="Some Text"> from the
     source document, the browser program performs the following steps:
     1) the browser retrieves the destination file "bar.html" from the
     server "foo.com", 2) the browser searches the file bar.html for
     "Some Text", and 3) if the browser finds the character swing being
     searched for, then the browser displays the file bar.html, scrolled
     to the line containing the first character of the character string
     being searched for.

It's very questionable whether this is truly an original invention with
no prior art. HyperCard and Xanadu both had capabilities like this. It's
also questionable whether the patent as written really applies to
XPointer. For instance, the patent mandates a certain behavior of
browsers. XPointer doesn't. I also think that the proposed "XPointer
patent terms and conditions" are unenforceable as currently published.

I recommend complete rejection of this specification until such time as
Sun's patent can be dealt with more reasonably.

| Elliotte Rusty Harold | elharo@metalab.unc.edu | Writer/Programmer |
|                  The XML Bible (IDG Books, 1999)                   |
|              http://metalab.unc.edu/xml/books/bible/               |
|   http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=0764532367/cafeaulaitA/   |
|  Read Cafe au Lait for Java News:  http://metalab.unc.edu/javafaq/ |
|  Read Cafe con Leche for XML News: http://metalab.unc.edu/xml/     |