W3C close to ratifying SOAP 1.2

SOAP 1.2, the proposed revision of the Simple Object Access Protocol Web services specification, may be finalized by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) within two to three months, a W3C representative said on Friday. But intellectual property rights could hinder the process.

The 393 issues raised by industry participants around the development of SOAP 1.2 since June 2001 have been narrowed down to just 11, said W3C representative Janet Daly. The W3C XML Protocol Working Group met in Bedford, Mass., Oct. 29-31 to deliberate on SOAP 1.2.

Among the remaining issues to be resolved is intellectual property, with the group believing "there may be significant intellectual property issues with the SOAP specification," according to the working group's statement.

"Multiple companies have said they believe they may have relevantpatents. Further investigation is required here before the specification should proceed to PR [proposed recommendation] phase," W3C said in noting the outstanding issues. Proposed recommendation is the ratification stage.

Two vendors, webMethods Inc. and Epicentric Inc., which has just been acquired by Vignette Corp., have stated they may have possible patents pertaining to SOAP 1.2, with webMethods stating as of September 11 it is not willing to waive its patent rights and Epicentric saying it has not been given permission to make a public statement, as of the same date. There have been no changes in those statements as of Friday but that may happen next week, Daly said.

If they have patents, webMethods and Epicentric may be able to charge royalties for their technologies, but the XML Protocol Group activity was chartered with a royalty-free IPR mode, Daly noted. The two vendors "are not saying they have a patent, they're saying they may have a patent," Daly said.

"They have not declared any patents by number," she said.

Officials at webMethods and Epicentric could not be reached for comment late on Friday afternoon.

Some other vendors participating in the working group, including IBM Corp. and Tibco Software Inc., report in the W3C statement that they have not identified any intellectual property rights related to the SOAP 1.2 effort and thus have not declared any.

Tibco, for one, said in its statement it has not identified any intellectual property rights in the current XML Protocols activity, but that it may own patents or have other intellectual property rights in this activity or may identify subsequent contributions to the W3C as containing intellectual property rights.

Microsoft, which also has not declared any patents pertaining to SOAP 1.2, is granting royalty-free use of its copyrights for use the specification.

Other outstanding issues in SOAP 1.2 include the scope of the specification itself, lack of both a dedicated conformance section in the specification, and a conformance clause and de-referencing of URIs (universal resource identifiers) inside SOAP. Additional issues include implementation technicalities and issues with specific technical terms and characterization of white space.

The working group is chartered with developing an XML-based protocol, SOAP 1.2, to:

* Provide an envelope to encapsulate XML data for transfer in an interoperable manner allowing for distributed extensibility, evolution, and intermediaries such as proxies, caches, and gateways.

* Produce in cooperation with IETF an OS-neutral convention for the content of the envelope when used for RPC applications.

* Build a mechanism to serialize data based on XML Schema data types.

* Work with IETF to develop a non-exclusive mechanism layered on HTTP transport.

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