Microsoft applies for syndication patents

Microsoft has filed for two patents covering web syndication technology, such as that used by Really Simple Syndication (RSS). The patents were filed in summer 2005 but have remained secret until now.

Microsoft has applied for the patents for "finding and consuming web subscriptions in a web browser" and efficiently consume or read RSS feeds using both an RSS reader and a Web browser," according to technology news site CNet News.com.

RSS is a way for the providers of information, such as news sites, bloggers or podcasters, to tell those who have signed up that there is new information available. Users have to install separate software, which is available for free, to communicate with publishers through RSS. Using this software, individuals sign up to information feeds.

The US Patent and Trademark Office publishes all patent applications, but only after 18 months have passed. Microsoft applied for the two syndication patents on 21st June 2005.

"The web content syndication platform described can be utilized to manage, organize and make available for consumption content that is acquired from the internet," says one of the applications. "The platform can acquire and organize web content, and make such content available for consumption by many different types of applications."

The patents are sure to draw fire from many of the existing users of free RSS systems, as well as some of the people who say they invented the technology, one of which is Dave Winer.

"Today I received a link to a patent granted to Microsoft, where they claim to have invented all this stuff," wrote Winer on his blog at Scripting.com on the release of the news. "Presumably they're eventually going to charge us to use it. This should be denounced by everyone who has contributed anything to the success of RSS."