Microsoft Office 2003 XML Schemas

Lawrence E. Rosen lrosen at
Thu Nov 27 02:47:41 UTC 2003

I have some concerns about the Office 2003 XML Reference Schema Patent
License.  I shared these concerns with my friends at Microsoft and I want to
share them with you too.

Generally I found the patent license to be a good one, mostly because
Microsoft has decided to license these patents royalty-free (e.g., zero
price).  Other aspects of the license are a little more dicey:

1. The Microsoft license requires full compliance with Microsoft's
specifications.  I don't understand why Microsoft needs to own the
specification for such schemas.  Suppose someone wants to use those patents
in ways extending or surpassing Microsoft's specifications?  Why should they
need Microsoft's approval?  This limitation is not compatible with open
source principles under which licensees have the right to create derivative
works.  Nor is such a limitation necessary, given Microsoft's market
dominance in office applications, to ensure that all implementations will
actually support their specification.  What does Microsoft need to fear from
broader uses of those patents?

2. There is an "advertising" clause that requires that a notice be placed in
copies of product documentation.  I suggested to Microsoft that a notice in
the source code should be sufficient to protect their interests.

3. The following sentence seems to me to be incompatible with the GPL: "You
are not licensed to distribute a Licensed Implementation under license terms
and conditions that prohibit the terms and conditions of this license."  But
I'm not sure, and I'm not the one to interpret the GPL.

4. The Microsoft patent license is not sublicenseable.  This makes it very
difficult for a downstream licensor to know the terms under which he
receives software incorporating the patents.  That is why Microsoft wants
the notice (see item 2 above).  I'd rather have a sublicenseable license.

5. This license contains a termination provision "if you sue Microsoft for
patent infringement over claims relating to reading or writing of files that
comply with the Office Schemas."  This is a broader ground for termination
than the license grant.  That's done a lot in open source licenses, but do
we want to agree to it in the case where Microsoft owns and controls the
specifications for implementations of the patents?

/Larry Rosen

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Dirk-Willem van Gulik [mailto:dirkx at] 
> Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2003 1:44 PM
> To: licensing at
> Subject: Re: Microsoft Office 2003 XML Schemas
> > >        
> > >
> > >
> > > would the ASF projects allowed to use, consume and generate those 
> > > XML formats given that we will not try to modify or change them?
> >
> > The board would have to answer officially, but since the license is 
> > essentially BSD-with-attribution, I don't see any reason 
> why we could 
> > not do so.  Note, however, that it is not GPL-compatible, 
> since they 
> > actually forbid an implementation under a license that does not 
> > require attribution.
> And which is at odd's with our general stance that we try to 
> give as much 'freedom' to our developers as possible. Up to 
> and including by slapping a GPL license on their own 
> contribution. This certainly seems a case of where we wander 
> into a grey zone (but _personally_ I think we are still in 
> the clear; as you still can pretty much do with it what you want).
> Dw
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