Apple to patent CSS transformations and animations

It seems like Apple is about to go down a road which is completely against the spirit of the web.

Apple has applied to patent CSS transformations and animations. I’m no lawyer, and it’s virtually impossible what results such a patent owned by Apple would lead to in reality, but really, if it in any way cripples interesting technologies and approaches in creating richer web sites, end users and web developers are the losers.

And, I know, it seems to be in the spirit of Apple to close things in, but I sincerely hope they will drop this and instead contribute to the web with open technologies and ideas – we have all seen various companies going down the proprietary path for things web-related, and it has never been for the better.

So, Apple, please, just stop it.

Posted in Apple/Mac,CSS,Developing,Technology |

20 Comments

  • Remy Sharp says:

    Equally, I'm no layer. What exactly is the impact of this? I know GIF is patented, so is that the template that we work from to understand what this new patent means?

    Does it mean that Firefox has to ditch their CSS transforms?

    Apple, the mind boggles…

  • Lars Gunther says:

    While I am totally against all software patents, which BTW have no legal effect in Europe (thank all Open Powers!) I think it will not affect the web in this case.

    Apple have submitted these proposals for standardization in the W3C and if someone has a patent they believe is being infringed by the W3C spec, they must protest. I.e. the W3C guarantees a level of protection that actually makes it a good move for Apple to get these patents.

    Let me explain this again. Apple promises not to use these patents against MS, Mozilla, Opera, et.al. because that would ba against W3C rules. But by having the patents they make it impossible for someone else to claim "ownership" of the technologies and patent troll anyone!

    Good move by Apple!

    Of course the real solution to all this would be the USA to drop their – I am a man of God so I will not curse, but cursing would be appropriate – software patent laws!!!!!!

    Man I just defended Apple – that's not something that happens every day. And in many other respects they still deserve critique for being too proprietary, locking people in to their own small universe, etc.

  • Remy Sharp says:

    @Lars – That's good to hear, particularly

    Apple promises not to use these patents against MS, Mozilla, Opera, et.al. because that would ba against W3C rules

    Do you have a reference for that?

  • Peter Krantz says:

    @Remy, actually the relevant patent in GIF has expired. But you can thank the patent dispute at the time for increasing speed in the development of PNG:-)

    @Lars, the software patent threat is far from over in Europe. If you want to sign the petition see stopsoftwarepatents.eu. It also has some nice examples of European patents that may explode. Anyone here implemented credit card payments on a website?

  • Hmm … this is certainly interesting.

    It would be even more interesting if the patents could be in the hands of W3C.

    Ultimately, I don't really see any need for patents, as you could just release the work under an open license: CC / MIT / WTFPL (http://sam.zoy.org/wtfpl/)

  • Peter Krantz says:

    Oh, and Robert, I see you have implemented a tab-like menu list at the top of this website. You are begging for trouble.

  • Peter Krantz says:

    I can't help myself Robert, but posting the previous comment I noticed that it looks like you are also "fulfilling requests of a web browser" with something that looks like CGI-style behaviour from the result of a form posting. This looks like extremely risky behaviour on your part and I will sell all my Robert Nyman Inc shares ASAP before I get entangled in your risky business.

  • Lars Gunther says:

    @Peter Krantz:

    Yes I know the danger is far from over. We have only one the first round. Ironically we probably will need to win EVERY round, because once the shit has hit the fan (oops, I did curse after all) the damage is done for good.

    Constant vigilance, people, constant vigilance!

    @remy:

    My sources would be Ian Hickson in an email about what it really means to be a Candidate Recommendation in the W3C sense (not the WHAT WG sense). Search the mailing list for "patent clock starts ticking" or something like that.

    I also have spoken to Doug Schepers informally about this – or rather listened in as he was talking to John Allsop, trying to, but not managing to get a word into that discussion…

  • Lars Gunther says:

    @peter Krantz again:

    Let's see if the patent office will grant a patent for tabs and make their own site the object of a law suit. Hilarious!

  • Peter Krantz says:

    @Lars That was my point. They have already granted a patent for tabs in palette-style windows (think Photoshop) (patent no EP 0689133). "Method of displaying multiple sets of information in the same area of a computer screen".

  • Lars Gunther says:

    Just when I was applauding Apple, they do this. Back to being evil again.

    No, I will not buy an Apple product, even if the new iMac are good looking.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Lars,

    If that is indeed the case, it sounds a lot better. But still, Apple should be very open about their intents then and the reasoning, instead of this information being available fairly hidden away.

    Peter,

    That patent information is just… scary. Really scary.

  • Sami says:

    I am surprised this comes as a surprise to all the Apple lovers out there. Look at their technology. If Apple gets a change to make something proprietary then they will. Microsoft is always painted as the dark evil corporation; when will you see that there is no difference with Apple, Sun or any of these big companies. They want one thing: Make money.

    PS. Patents generally belong in a trash can but that is a completely different discussion. DS.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Sami,

    I agree, they have the same interest, and Apple, for instance, currently seem to behave a lot worse than Microsoft.

  • Raf. says:

    When you say Apple is worst than Microsoft for being closed, do you have any example aside from iPod/iTunes/AppleTV?

    It's true, this trio is very closed.. but what else?

    Unix, vCard, CalDAV, WebDAV, Apache, Open Directory, Kerberos, WebKit, Grand Central Dispatch (which they released under the Apache license).. Are these worst than, let's say.. IIS, Active Directory, Exchange, SQL Server, SharePoint?

  • Michael Edlund says:

    @Lars is right, patents that are submitted to W3C are open to use. The patent is a way for the company to make sure nobody can use it against them. Like when Microsoft caused a riot by patenting CSS itself:

    http://www.w3.org/Style/CSS/Disclosures

    I too disagree with software patents strongly, but this one won't change anything in how we work, just as little as Microsoft's CSS patent did.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Raf,

    Except from those you mention, a lot of Apple software uses something closed-source, like iPhoto, iWork etc. Also, most Apple applications have very few preferences or ways to alter them: while it works, it's really good, but god forbid you would want to do something else they didn't think of.

    And, naturally, the iPhone and the App Store is a horror example of closing people in, not just by restricting software and what to install, but also to what companies you have to use to call; also take the Google voice controversy etc.

    The Microsoft things you mention aren't really nice either, though, so I 'll give you that. :-)

    My personal take, though, is that Microsoft, in its own clumsy way, try to be more open, to discuss things and reveal what is going on. Apple seem just more and more closed, and try to desperately over-control all of their hardware and software.

    Michael,

    Great with the link, thanks! It sounds a lot more comforting if that is the case that it won't affect us at all.

    Let's just hope for open licenses in the future. :-)

  • @Robert: With organisations as big as Apple, Microsoft, Sun, IBM, HP, etc it's inaccurate to say that they're either open or closed.

    They have so many teams and divisions, working under very different circumstances. So, while the OS X team might get away with licensing GCD openly, the iPhoto team has different circumstances, that might prevent them from opening up their work for the audience.

    This is the same in all the monoliths, some are just more successful at finding good ways of opening up their stuff and benefit from "audience participation".

    From a business perspective, I think that Apple's approach is sheer genius. They maintain control of their core products and still reap the benefits of having a strong following of people that subscribe to the open source ideas.

    If I was was running a company like Apple, I would be doing exactly the same thing … making sure that everything that was not the core of the business would be open sourced … primarily for making sure that it improved over time, but also to be used as a marketing ploy to make the audience like my company.

    Like it or not, the most profitable businesses these years work with a mixture of open and closed source / ideas / protocols / whatever.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Morgan,

    Good points, and I agree, you can't generally label an organization as just open, or just closed, although I would say other organizations (like Google) seem to succeed a lot better in being open (or at least how they are being perceived).

    And what seems to be good business politics; one can't argue with Apple's success; it isn't necessarily good for an open web and a healthier development climate, which is what gets to me and what I care about.

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