Setting the record straight on Sxip and patents

* Sxip to offer non-assertion statements

Recently there was a minor flap over patent issues and user-centric identity systems. Someone had discovered that Dick Hardt and Sxip Identity had applied for some U.S. and U.K. patents covering identity systems that appeared to cover technology used in the OpenID system.

Now anyone who knows Dick or has worked with Sxip is well aware that this company is no Eolas (the folks who claim a patent on browser plug-ins), nor is there any indication that Sxip wants to quietly have people adopt a standard that it later claims is covered by its intellectual property (IP).

Sxip does own quite a bit of IP related to its Sxip Access product, and a lot of the OpenID system could be said to derive from the Sxip model. It could be said, in fact, that Hardt “invented” the three-part identity system of Identity Provider, User and Relying Party (RP, or Identity Consumer).

Since OpenID is, at least nominally, an open source project, patent issues are red flags to many of its proponents.

So it’s with a real sense of relief that I can report that Hardt stated to me unequivocally, “We will issue non-assertion statements similar to other respected corporate patent holders [e.g., Sun and IBM] as specifications we participate in are finalized.”

He went on to note that, “We have been open to spec developers and the core OpenID community that we hold patents in this area.” Evidently it’s not the OpenID stakeholders raising a potential stink, but those whose interests lie in other identity systems and methods.

This seems like a good time to give you an interim report on Sxipper, Sxip’s well-designed Web-based single sign-on solution plus (SSO+). The “plus” is a form-filling tool that allows the first visitor to a form to map the fields and send the resulting semantic map back to the Sxipper site. Subsequent Sxipper-enabled visitors to that form will see their own data automatically populated into it.

The project is still listed as beta software and is undergoing seemingly endless “updates” (which are very quietly and automatically installed. I wish other software vendors would adopt Sxipper’s update methodology!). But, for me, it’s the most-compelling reason to install Firefox as your primary browser. Sxipper has improved greatly in usability and functionality since I started using it last fall and now I’d be severely impacted if it were no longer available to me. It’s really the best, if not the first, user-centric identity tool.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.