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To read comments to this article, go here
Rosen on MS' XML Covenant
Thursday, November 24 2005 @ 03:59 PM EST

I'm collecting impressions on Microsoft's covenant on Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas, naturally. Here's what Larry Rosen thinks:
I was delighted to learn of Microsoft's recent "Covenant Regarding Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas." This covenant goes beyond anything Microsoft has ever done before. It means that both open source and proprietary software can compete in implementations of these important XML schemas without the threat of patent litigation from Microsoft.

This covenant is at least as generous as the patent licenses for many other document formats and industry standards. It includes protection for Microsoft against patent lawsuits; this is just like the patent defense provisions in many open source licenses. And the scope of their patent covenant, even though it is limited to "conforming" software products, is sufficient to allow open source implementations that can read and write Office 2003 documents. Microsoft's covenant is, to coin a phrase, as fair and balanced as other licenses or covenants we've accepted before. I am pleased to see Microsoft move their patent licensing strategy this far.

Microsoft has offered its specification for standardization by Ecma, an industry standards organization headquartered in Europe. It is important for open source companies to participate in this standardization effort, so that we can ensure that the specification for the standard is itself developed in an open way. If we do that, I'm confident that "conforming" software products will evolve to meet customer needs worldwide without Microsoft having to dictate the scope of that conformance.

The first reaction people will have is, "where's the catch?" I don't see anything we can't live with. We can participate in crafting the standard in Ecma, we can read and write Office 2003 files in open source applications, and we don't have to pay royalties to Microsoft to do so. It's a good start.

In a followup, I asked for some clarification on the RAND terminology, and asked why that isn't an issue, and here's his answer:

Microsoft's drafting this as a covenant not to sue rather than a license allows us to ignore RAND. This is a truly free promise not to sue anyone who implements a conforming application.

As for the "conforming application" language, he says companies involved in open source should actively participate in the Ecma activities. Needless to say, I disagree on everything.


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