19 April 2002 IBM has said that it will not attempt to collect royalties on use of the web standard known as ‘ebXML’, even though the US computer giant claims patent rights to a chunk of the emerging ecommerce standard.
‘Electronic Business XML’ (ebXML) is a web standard based on XML, which is backed by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) – a consortium of high-technology companies that includes IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and BEA Systems.
An IBM spokesperson said that it owns one patent in the ebXML standard and has another ebXML-related patent pending. IBM, which owns one of the largest patent portfolios in the world and has occasionally been accused of resorting to ‘defensive patenting’, has always said that it reviews each patent on its own merits.
IBM said that it followed OASIS procedures and disclosed the patent claims in late March. The computer giant said that it has no intention of enforcing its patent rights. Attempts at enforcement, analysts point out, would have made IBM very unpopular and may have been impractical.
There has been much debate in the IT industry as to whether companies should be able to charge royalties on technologies that are used in industry standards. Large software vendors are directly involved in the definition of such standards and would wield unprecedented power if such patents were protected and enforced.
Supporters of ebXML say that it makes it much easier for companies to communicate with each other and that it has the potential to replace older and unwieldy data-exchange technologies such as Electronic Data Interchange.