A DEVELOPER at web browser firm Opera has called out Apple for malicious patent malarkies that are delaying a W3C specification.
"Apple using patents to undermine open standards again," says Opera developer Haavard Moen in a stinging blog post that revisits some of his concerns from a couple of years ago when Apple delayed a different specification with some strange tactics.
"A couple of years ago, I reported on how Apple was using patents to block a W3C specification. The end-result was that the patent didn't seem to be relevant to the specification at all, and one or both of them were even rejected by the patent office," said Moen.
"That Apple would use invalid or irrelevant patents or patent applications to block or delay an open standard seems odd, but if you look at their general behavior during the whole thing, it is easy to conclude that the intent was indeed malicious."
To his regret he said nothing at the time, but now that Apple lawyers have raised their heads again he feels compelled to speak up.
"Guess what," he says, "Apple is at it again. Another year, another attempt by Apple to block open standards using patents."
Moen said that Apple has four claims that threaten to block the W3C's touch events specification. Apple filed them around a month ago, he added, about six weeks before the deadline.
The filing revealed something else to Moen, the reason why Apple did not join a working party set up to work on the specifications.
"The odd thing is that Apple chose not to join the working group that handles touch events. If they had joined, they would have been forced to file the patent claims far sooner," he added. "So now we know why they didn't join. What we don't know is why Apple insists on waiting almost until the last minute before filing its patent claims."
This is part of a pattern, according to the developer, whereby Apple discloses patents at the last minute that are, after some investigation, deemed to be irrelevant to what is being discussed. It is unclear as to whether this will be the case with this latest patent disclosure, but Moen reckons he knows how it will end up.
"The investigation can take several months, and will take time, resources and money to complete," he added. "That's time, resources and money that could have been spent on improving various other work-in-progress standards."
We have asked Apple to respond. µ