Date: Fri, 25 Jul 2003 09:52:03 -0400
To: NISO voting members <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From: Eric Hellman <email@example.com>
Subject: Open Letter to NISO members about Patents and OpenURL
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii" ; format="flowed"
Dear Fellow NISO Members,
In May, members of the NISO community became concerned that a 1999 patent application by Openly Informatics might have the unfortunate effect of discouraging implementation of the OpenURL draft standard currently in trial use. Openly Informatics fully supports this OpenURL standard, and we hope to see it implemented as widely and as openly as possible. When we learned of these concerns, we committed to work with NISO to address them and to make sure that adoption of the Draft Standard would proceed unimpeded. I want to report to you our progress on this effort.
To briefly sum up the background on this issue, in 1999 we applied for a patent on a specific identifier resolution technique we pioneered with our LinkBaton system. Our patent application cited prior work such as Herbert van de Sompel's SFX, the DOI system, and PubMed's LinkOut system. Starting in early 2000, we widely trumpeted the patent-pending status of LinkBaton. In 2001, I was asked to join NISO's committee AX, which was charged with developing syntax for a new OpenURL Standard. There are many different resolution techniques available for localized linking, and resolution methods for the OpenURL were explicitly excluded from the Committee's charge. I had specifically informed a number of people, including several Committee members and NISO's present Chair, about the patent-pending status of LinkBaton, and the Committee's charge indicated to me that the LinkBaton resolution technique would not be an issue. As the Standard has developed, Openly Informatics has been at the forefront of its development and implementation. In May of this year we were the first to deploy a NISO-OpenURL-1.0 compliant resolver, 1Cate (http://www.openly.com/1cate/). (1Cate does not currently use the LinkBaton resolution technology).
Around this time, concern arose that implementation of the OpenURL Standard could be impeded by legal concerns resulting from the broad language of the LinkBaton patent application. As technology developers supporting OpenURL, this was the last thing we wanted to see happen, because the market for our technology will grow along with the adoption of the Standard. On learning of this concern, we sought ways to ensure that the possibility of a patent would not interfere with implementation of the Standard. We have made clear our position that the OpenURL Draft Standard does not infringe in any way on the LinkBaton Technology. We have granted access to our confidential patent filings to representatives of NISO. We have also offered to grant no-cost licenses for the LinkBaton Technology to NISO and its members for the purposes of implementing OpenURL. NISO has declined this offer. We have even offered to modify our patent claims to assuage any specific fears about the applicability of our patent to OpenURL link-server systems, even those offered by our competitors. NISO has not accepted this offer, and has not yet identified to us any specific concerns about enforcement of our potential patent. We continue to hope that we can work with NISO and with NISO members to promote the OpenURL Standard, and to eliminate any perception that a potential patent for LinkBaton would prevent implementation and adoption of the OpenURL Standard.
I have been asked why we continue to pursue a patent on the LinkBaton identifier resolution technique. It is important to note that property rights associated with a Patent can be used to enforce openness just as property rights created by Copyright law are used as the legal foundation for "Open Source" software licenses. We believe that a patent for LinkBaton will help us ensure that identifier resolution systems remain open, nondiscriminatory and based on cooperation between interested parties. Openly Informatics has shown by its past actions (see our work on S-Link-S, Jake, and UHF) that it is fully committed to open standards and open resolution architectures. We have no intention of changing that stance.
As part of our work related to this issue, we have become aware of several issued patents belonging to other companies that may be infringed upon by OpenURL resolution services. We are working to ensure that our OpenURL software and technology properly respect legitimate patent rights that have been granted under the laws of the United States.
I welcome your feedback regarding this issue, and I look forward to working with many of you on implementation of the OpenURL standard and the exciting opportunities it makes possible.
Openly Informatics, Inc.
Eric Hellman, President Openly Informatics, Inc.
firstname.lastname@example.org 2 Broad St., 2nd Floor
tel 1-973-509-7800 fax 1-734-468-6216 Bloomfield, NJ 07003
http://www.openly.com/1cate/ 1 Click Access To Everything