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Microsoft: No Sweeping Claim to RSS Tech

Despite patent filings, Microsoft Corp. isn't trying to claim all rights to the Really Simple Syndication technology for notifying users of new entries on their favorite news sites and Web journals, a lead product manager says.

The patent applications, still pending before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, prompted speculation by a chief RSS developer, Dave Winer, that "presumably they're eventually going to charge us to use it."

That's far from the case, said Sean Lyndersay, RSS program manager lead at Microsoft.

He wrote on a company Web journal that Microsoft is seeking patents only for "specific ways to improve the RSS end-user and developer experience" -- not the technology as a whole. And applying for a patent, he said, is a common industry practice that doesn't necessarily mean Microsoft will ultimately seek license fees.

Many companies apply for a slew of patents for defensive purposes -- to prevent others from later charging royalties on their own inventions and to trade with rivals who might also have their own arsenal of patents.

But critics have complained that patents have become too easy to get -- regardless of motive. The Supreme Court is reviewing the current legal standard for granting patents.

In October, Microsoft joined rival browser manufacturers in supporting RSS technology by including a reader in its newest version of Internet Explorer. Readers such as those in browsers, standalone applications and online services allow visitors to instantly track updates on a range of topics of interest.

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