SCIENTIGO STAKES CLAIM TO XML IN PATENT PORTFOLIO: According to ZDNet, Charlotte, N.C.-based Scientigo (pronounced "see-EHN-ti-go") owns two patents (No. 5,842,213 and No. 6,393,426) that cover the transfer of "data in neutral forms." The company further claims that these patents cover the data-formatting standard XML.
Of course, Scientigo is looking to "monetize" these patents.
However, rather than seek outright royalties, Scientigo is in the process of forging a tentative agreement with an intellectual-property licensing firm to handle contracts with third parties. A final agreement could be announced early next week. It's not clear what Scientigo has in mind, but they seem to be trying to placate the web community over the notion that they are poised to corner the XML market.
For those that may not be too familiar with XML ("Extensible Markup language"), XML is the universal format for structured documents and data on the Web, and was officially released by the W3C in 1996. XML is a subset of the older SGML, that enables generic SGML to be served, received, and processed on the Web just like HTML. Basically, XML is a system for defining, validating, and sharing document formats. XML uses tags to distinguish document structures, and attributes to encode extra document information. For further information on XML, click here or here.
So what do the claims cover?
Well, in the '213 patent, claim 11 recites the following:
11. A method of transferring data in electronic form from a computer comprising the steps of:
a) organizing and storing the data in neutral form that is to be transferred;
b) organizing and storing the names, definitions and properties of the structural tags used to express the data in neutral form; and
c) transferring the data expressed in neutral form along with the names, definitions and properties of the structural tags that make up that neutral form data.
And the '426 patent goes slightly further in defining the claimed features:
1. A method of modeling a set of information for storage in neutral form in a computer based environment, comprising the steps of:
a) modeling the set of information into instance data sets, each composed of an instance cluster comprised of data instance nodes, each data instance node in an instance cluster containing an assigned distinguishing structural tag comprising:
(1) a data reference
(2) a data type
(3) a data organization; and
b) each structural tag having defined components for each data value in
each instance cluster.
That pretty much covers XML. Accordingly, the software community began scrambling for more information, and in the process ran the patents past Sun's Tim Bray, who is credited with co-inventing XML. Here is what Tim had to say on David Belind's blog:
The notion that an application filed in January 1997 can cover a technology whose first public draft was in November 1996, and which was based on a then-ten-year-old ISO standard, seems ridiculous on the face of it. So one assumes that they're not trying to put a tollbooth on XML itself, it must be some particular B2B application of it or some such. There are no specifics of what they're claiming on their Web site.
All valid observations. One potential target specifically named by Scientigo is Amazon.com, with companies like Microsoft and Oracle taking a back seat for the time being. But I would find it unusual for a company like Scientigo to go directly after the big players at this time - typically the standard protocol for companies like Scientigo is to go after smaller fish to establish a royalty rate for the patent, and then pull the trigger on companies like Amazon.
One thing I noticed that runs in Scientigo's favor, is that they managed to at least cite some non-patent literature (including the ISO 10303 standard) which may make it slightly more prickly to find "non-cumulative" art. However, there appears to be a veritable army of companies that are looking to pounce on this patent at the first whiff of litigation. Without having done any searching myself, I can only guess that there are at least a few W3C publications out there that could cause problems for this patent.