Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Monday, November 8, 2004

Microsoft Claims Ownership Of The Internet

According to an article by eWeek dated Friday Nov. 5th 2004, Microsoft appears to be claiming intellectual property rights on over 130 Internet protocols that make up the very core of the Internet infrastructure. These protocols include for example TCP/IP and the DNS system.

The story emerged as Larry J. Blunk, a senior network engineer with Merit Network wrote a note to the IAB members of the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force). In the note, dated October 30th Mr Blunk wrote:

"Dear IAB members,
I wish to express my concerns regarding Microsoft's Royalty Free
Protocol License Agreement
dated Apr 19, 2004 and published on their
website at the following URL.

Additionally, a FAQ document is available at the following location.

The Agreement specifies a total of 130 protocols which Microsoft is offering for license "under any applicable intellectual property rights that Microsoft may have...".

Many of the listed protocols are RFC documents, including, but not limited to, the core TCP/IP v4 and TCP/IP v6 protocol specifications.

Microsoft does not specify how this list of protocols was derived and to what extent they have investigated their possible rights holdings over these protocols.

The list appears to be a near, but not completely, exhaustive list of public protocols implemented in Microsoft products. For example, the SMTP protocol is
missing from the list.


The fact that a significant number of protocols date from the early 1980's, a time during which Microsoft had little patent activity, suggests that there is no reason to suspect that Microsoft has any patent rights to these early protocols (such as the TCP/IP v4 core protocols). Further, in the unlikely event that applicable patents may be discovered, they would have likely expired at this point.


It is my concern that by merely suggesting they may hold applicable rights to these protocols, Microsoft is injecting a significant amount of unwarranted uncertainty and doubt regarding non-Microsoft implementations of these protocols.

It is quite likely that an individual or organization would be intimidated into signing the license agreement simply due to Microsoft's vast financial and legal resources. Further, because Microsoft provides no reference to any proof of applicable rights holdings (such as patent numbers), it is impossible to ascertain whether Microsoft indeed has legitimate rights holdings.

Of additional concern is the onerous and restrictive conditions attached to the license agreement. In particular, the limitations which restrict implementations to "Server Software or a component of Server Software" and the requirement that implementations "are compliant with the relevant Technical Documentation."


Larry J. Blunk

In its own article entitled "Is Microsoft Ready to Assert IP Rights over the Internet?" eWeek's own Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols reported:

"Has Microsoft been trying to retroactively claim IP (intellectual property) rights over many of the Internet's basic protocols? Larry J. Blunk, senior engineer for networking research and development at Merit Network Inc., believes that might be the case.

Blunk pointed out that Microsoft is claiming some form of IP rights over "a total of 130 protocols which Microsoft is offering for license."

According to eWeek, Microsoft says that this is all a major misunderstanding and that it is working hard to provide some major clarifications on this issue in the coming days.

"Microsoft is aware of the letter to the IAB and is working on a response to the concerns raised by the letter author and on providing clarity about our participation in standards-setting activities," said Mark Martin, a Microsoft spokesperson. "In the end, we believe this is simply a misunderstanding which we are working hard to clarify."

Having read the license in question, I am sure that if you have any reponsible concern about the future evolution of this thing called the Internet, you should be proactively seeking Microsoft prompt clarification on this issue.

See also: Concerns regarding Microsoft's Royalty Free Protocol License Agreement

Full list of protocols involved and Microsoft License Agreement



eWeek -
Reference: [via Slashdot] [ Read more ]
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posted by Robin Good on Monday, November 8 2004, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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