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   Re: [xml-dev] XDocs, XForms and Standards

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Andrew Watt wrote:
> Personally, I would find it disappointing if Microsoft bypass XForms as
> of the engine for XDocs (as best I understand XDocs, at present).


> If you or colleagues could give an indication of what use, if any, XDocs
> makes of XForms that would be very useful information. From a standards
> of view it would be a plus point for XDocs if it does leverage XForms. At
> least that's my opinion.

I have not participated in or kept track of the XForms development and at
the moment the press releases about XDocs are so vague that it is difficult
to know exactly what it is/will be.  Obviously, however, this discussion is
taking place becasue it is not difficult to see the conceptual relationship
between XForms and XDocs as an xml-based forms technology.

To the extent that XDocs uses XForms technology but deviates from the
standard, I believe the W3C and/or the participants in the XForms workgroup
would have a cause of action against Microsoft for fraud or something
related to fraud.  It is not acceptable social behavior (which means it is
very likely not acceptable behavior in the eyes of the law) to represent to
a group of people involvement in a standards process, receive valuable
intellectual property in return, and then use that intellectual property for
a purpose other than implementing the standard.  In short, I believe that
unless Microsoft can show that XDocs is an independently created (i.e., not
influenced by its participation in the XForms WG), the participants in the
XForms workgroup could compel Microsoft to implement the standard or
implement nothing at all.

This is not to say that Microsoft could be compelled to build XForms
technology and distribute it for free in a browser or otherwise.  If
Microsoft or anyone else implements XForms and wants to charge customers for
the software, that is perfectly reasonable.

Of course, the law is not black and white -- my informal opinion does not
mean that a judge would ultimately associate the well-known rules of fraud
with the unknown (to a judge) and murky fact patterns of technical standards
development.  Further, not many people like to litigate, especially against
Microsoft.  The practical lesson, therefore, is that anyone who participates
in standards development should be very careful about the terms under which
they participate and the companies/people with whom they participate.   If
anyone, including Microsoft, can simply join a workgroup, siphon good ideas
and intellectual property, and then roll their own non-standard
implementation, then participating in a standards group is simply a good way
to give away your ideas, intellectual property and hard work for nothing.  I
would certainly think twice about participating in a workgroup with a large
company such as Microsoft, since, given its resources, it would be quite
easy for MS to take the best ideas/IP from the standards groups and
implement them faster than anyone else in a non-standard way.

In the "browser wars" an HTML table without an end tag would render in IE
but would not render in Netscape.  So, even though Netscape had the "better"
implementation, sloppy HTML would render in IE, making it appear to be the
better browser.  The issues with XForms/XDocs appear not to be much
different.   It would be (is) relatively easy to craft proper legal
agreements and intellectual property policies to ensure that these issues do
not continue to plague the world.  Indeed, it is a plague that causes mass
confusion and costs a lot of people a lot of time and money.


Winchel "Todd" Vincent III
Attorney and Technical Consultant
Project Director, E-CT-Filing Project
Georgia State University College of Law
US Office: 404.651.4297
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Email    : winchel@mindspring.com
Web      : http://e-ct-file.gsu.edu/


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