Apple Attempting to Patent RSS Aggregation

Miguel de Icaza quotes Dave Winer, pointing out two patent applications from Apple which seem intended to grab major chunks of the feed syndication space as Apple “IP”.

The first application is news feed viewer, 20050289147, filed April 13 2005:

A computer-implemented method for displaying a plurality of articles, the method comprising: storing a first feed bookmark in a folder, the first feed bookmark indicating a first feed, the first feed comprising a first plurality of articles; storing a second feed bookmark in the folder, the second feed bookmark indicating a second feed, the second feed comprising a second plurality of articles; aggregating the first feed and the second feed to form a third feed; and displaying the third feed.

I think there were many RSS readers that implemented this, and others from the patent application, before April 2005. I know Liferea, the one I use, has had UI-level aggregation since September 2004, with its VFolders.

Next, news feed browser, 20050289468, filed April 13 2005. This one contains a wide range of claims, but here’s one that stands out as particularly trivial:

A computer-implemented method for discovering a feed, the method comprising: receiving a request to display a file; determining that the file includes relationship XML; determining that a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) within the relationship XML indicates a file that comprises the feed; and displaying one of a group containing the feed and a link to the feed.

That’s pretty much RSS autodiscovery, as described in 2002.

The listed inventors in both patents are: Kahn, Jessica; (San Francisco, CA) ; Alfke, Jens; (San Jose, CA) ; Wilkin, Sarah Anne; (Menlo Park, CA) ; Howard, Albert Riley JR.; (Sunnyvale, CA) ; Forstall, Scott James; (Mountain View, CA) ; Lemay, Stephen O.; (San Francisco, CA) ; Melton, Donald Dale; (San Carlos, CA) ; Loofbourrow, Wayne Russell; (San Jose, CA).

Thanks, Apple! and thanks, “inventors”!

It’s important to note that this is still in the application stage, and as such can be invalidated, or narrowed down to a saner level, by using the techniques described here. I strongly recommend that people working in the syndication field with sufficient knowledge and expertise who feel strongly enough about this should spend a little time doing so, before the patent is issued and it becomes a multi-million-dollar task to invalidate it. (however, IANApatentL of course ;)

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