I got this link from Eve, and to think, I never even knew there was a consortiuminfo.org. The Microsoft Open Specifications Promise irrevocably lets any interested parties implement and use a list of technologies without fear of getting sued (at least sued by Microsoft). It is similar in tone and scope to earlier declarations about the Office XML formats, and the declaration from Sun about UBL. I’m not a lawyer, so if I’ve described this badly, get a real lawyer to explain it. :-P
This is a smart move; since obviously a great deal of work went into producing these standards, I’m sure Microsoft plans to benefit more by growing the “whole market” (in the language of _Crossing the Chasm_) then they would by nickle-and-dime asserting patent rights. They also come out far, far better in public opinion, especially among those most affected by these standards.
There’s another angle worth considering–the defensive. Giving away patent rights carte blanche might at first seem like a funny kind of defense, but here’s how it works: after today, what would happen if BigWebServicesCo started shaking down implementers of WS-Whatever? The attacker would be savagely torn apart in the court of public opinion, that’s what. Submarine patents are dirty business, so for a bigger target, creating an environment more hostile to such bad behavior is a powerful strategy.
Of course, smallish parasitic patent troll companies won’t be deterred much, but then again nothing seems to.
I’m optimistic that this is part of a positive trend. I’ll even refrain from further opinions on the WS-* technologies. :-) -m