Contrary to several reports, i4i's patent suit against Microsoft's infringing use of "custom XML" won't affect the Open Document format.
The patent that i4i is protecting with its suit is a process for separating content and meta-data in different silos â€" something that Microsoft does with its OOXML format, used in Word 2003 and subsequent versions of the word processing program. Because other document formats, and ODF in particular, use XML, there has been confusion as to whether that document format could be affected as well.
But Paul Merrill, a founding member of the Open Document Foundation and member of the Universal Interoperability Council, told me that "ODF 1.2-- is not enabling custom schemas. Instead, it's borrowed from the World Wide Web Consortium's [W3C] RDFa, Resource Description Framework, a key component of the W3C's Semantic Web initiative."
That contradicts assertions by Burton Group analyst Guy Creese, who told Visual Studio Magazine that the patent could spell trouble for the next version of ODF because "ODF 1.2 will move to a similar custom schema that OOXML has."
Likewise, Gartner analyst Brian Prentice told CNET that the fallout from the lawsuit may "also impact ODF."
But Merrill told me that
the statement attributed to Guy Creese from the Burton Group about OpenDocument 1.2 incorporating similar custom metadata is flatly wrong-- RDFa is nothing remotely like Microsoft's embedded custom XML schemas. Creese may have been confused by the fact that there can be some overlapping functionality. But RDF is based on subject-predicate-object expressions to describe resources. From my reading of the patent claims, RDF isn't even remotely implicated.My colleague Erik Sherman, with the complicity of patent expert Dennis Crouch, tries to paint Google, Apple's iTunes, HP and even SAP, all of whom make use of XML, into the same corner as Microsof as well. But I think that's a stretch given the specificity of the patent in this particular instance.