I have made a web machine out of HTML, CSS and JavaScript that, at a minimum, handles data otherwise handled in a spreadsheet application.

The machine's parts are essentially draggable holders (DIVs) and sortable lists (ULs) that are viewed in a three panel phone-sized display.

Hypertext and script modules control the action as well as record and store the results of dragging and sorting as machine-readable text files. (JSON)

Files are shared with other machines in collaborative work and used with selected apps for on line presentations and activities.

My question is, given Sir Tim Berners-Lee considered HTML too important to patent, if establishing the machine's patentability is sufficient to allow all to freely use it.

  • I can’t get your point , please expand the last sentence
    – YOGO
    Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 10:44
  • 1
    @YOGO Bit out of my depth here. How about: is what I have described prior art and/or is it sufficient in practical terms to stop anyone else taking out a patent to take advantage of Sir Tim's technical advance, which is otherwise patent-free. Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 11:13
  • Ok, you mean if the description you already made is enough to stop someone patenting that invention described by you ? I think you did not describe anything yet in deep enough for getting a patent or stopping someone to do it, but that’s just my opinion. Latter you talk about taking advantage of Sir Tim’s but in that case it seems to be a further invention made on top of the Sir’s one
    – YOGO
    Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 11:20
  • It is still unclear what you are asking. Nothing in the description of your idea seems patentable to me. As for HTML, no one can patent that since it is long since been published. In any way, generally computer languages are protected by copyright.
    – Eric S
    Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 16:31

4 Answers 4


Any inventions made by Berners-Lee you talk about were disclosed decades ago. Once disclosed to the public, no patent can be issued to anyone. A few places have a grace period(US is 1 year). Also, only the inventor can legitimately file a patent application.

There is no danger in 2021 of someone getting a patent for technology disclosed in 1989.

If I misunderstand your question and you are asking about your invention then it is likely not patentable by you or anyone as anticipated by Google Sheets and also not patentable subject matter under Alice, etc.

  • I found the question ambiguous. I think it’s asking about the patentability of the “HTML Machine” which sounds a lot like Google Sheets.
    – Eric S
    Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 22:20
  • I saw that ambiguity also so I deleted my answer. A further comment by the OP increased my original perception of the question. I’ll edit to also respond to the alternative understanding of the question.
    – George White
    Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 23:29
  • @EricS With my HTML machine, users drag elements so that three selections align under a focus line in a small slot machine-like window, to help assemble a complex JavaScript object. In a Google Sheet the first two selections would be row and column headings and the third the cell value, located somewhere in a much larger window. The input may be the same but the action and output are very different. Commented Jan 6, 2022 at 5:12
  • @GeorgeWhite About Alice, might a machine comprising HTML static and moving parts be as eligible as a machine made of metal?. If not, what disqualifies it? Commented Jan 6, 2022 at 6:52
  • @ChrisGlasier For one thing, the fact that you publicly disclosed your "machine" has now made it unpatentable although you may have a grace period in the US. If what you want to do is make it available for all to use, you don't need a patent, you need only publish it. That way, no one else can patent your invention. What we are actually saying is that your "machine" which is software doesn't seem sufficiently novel to be patented. If what you want is to freely share your software, I'd suggest distributing it with an appropriate license such as GPL or MIT.
    – Eric S
    Commented Jan 6, 2022 at 16:31

Using an AskPatents question to put the patentable idea here in this public forum would be disclosure, which would render it unpatentable in nearly all legal jurisdictions worldwide. So I assume that every question & comment here on AskPatents is holding back the key innovations so as to not ruin one's ability to patent the method or apparatus. That said, if you step back to look at the use case & combination of apparatuses needed to accomplish this innovation over offline spreadsheets and all prior-art spreadsheets from the likes of Google that are already in your innovation's web-browser space, you will likely find something innovative (unless all you did was in effect ‘reinvent’ nothing beyond Google Sheets).

Just because the paper clip's per se ability to be patented nowadays is long gone, that does not stop you from patenting some new doo-dad add-on to the paper-clip concept. Someone years later added knurling to paper clips to hold better to not be as slippery; that knurling would have been patentable. Someone years later invented the plastic paper clip; that change from steel to plastic would have been patentable. Just because Berners-Lee didn't patent his ‘paper clip’ doesn't mean that you can't patent your add-on doo-dad to the ‘paper clip’ (unless Google Sheets beat you to it all).

  • Adding the "@ChrisGlasier" in your answer is odd and doesn't add anything. Also I'm not sure you are actually answering the OP's question which is in the last sentence.
    – Eric S
    Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 21:11
  • Oops. That was from when it was a comment. I copied 2 comments that I made to turn them into an answer. I'll remove that. Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 21:19
  • holding back the key innovations Please see: docs.google.com/document/d/… Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 5:27
  • @ChrisGlasier Can you explain what you are getting at? I really don't understand.
    – Eric S
    Commented Feb 26, 2022 at 22:49

My question is, given Sir Tim Berners-Lee considered HTML too important to patent, if establishing the machine's patentability is sufficient to allow all to freely use it.

The "it" in the question is ambiguous. If it refers to HTML, then everyone can already freely use it and no-one can patent it. A requirement for patentability is novelty. Things that already exist like HTML are prior art and can't be patented.

If it refers to your HTML "machine", then obtaining a patent is not required to allow all to freely use it. You only need to publish your software. It then becomes prior art and should keep anyone from obtaining a patent on your "machine". Patents are expensive and time consuming to obtain. I'd recommend releasing the software with an open source license so people are comfortable with their obligations, but licensing is off topic for this site.

  • The crux of what I am trying to achieve is recognition that a web machine (the "it" in the question) is an important part of future web development, just as a web page has been so far. Banks use web pages for many ATM services, so the concept is not new; but the problem is the general public lacks the cohesion to do something similar to support their own diverse work. The main stumbling block might be recognition that a machine made of HTML is a machine in its own right . My idea is that establishing its patentability might help support my efforts to get W3C to adopt the idea. Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 4:10
  • "For people who want to make sure the Web serves humanity, we have to concern ourselves with what people are building on top of it,” Tim Berners-Lee Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 4:28
  • @ChrisGlasier Of course you can file a patent application. If you do so, please consider using a patent lawyer experienced with software patents. That said, obtaining a patent is unlikely to further adoption of your invention by others. It is more likely to do just the opposite as many people will be scared of infringement. Better is to release it with an open source license and build a community. That's the best way to be the next HTML or Python. Best of luck.
    – Eric S
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 15:55

Perhaps posting on the Internet Society Open Forum might be an answer:

Patents and the Internet?

EDIT 28/2/2022

It seems guests are not allowed in. A shame really because it seems to me a bit of forum cross linking might be beneficial.

Here is a couple of paragraphs from a post from a tech officer to another member just a few minutes ago:


I can't speak for anybody else on this thread, but on the subject of "Automation in Day-to-Day work" I am somewhere between Knowledge and persuasion. I simply don't have enough knowledge to get to the decision phase. Chris told us he will be filling in bits, and now I have knowledge of his idea I am trying to get more information before I make my own decision to spend time on it. If I spend time on it, then I might convince others to do that too. And that, my friends, is bottom up deployment.

This remark

Because you have already tapped into a HUGE idea and core value to us ("how are we going to legally preserve the openness of innovations around the internet") but nobody seems to be moved the slightest about it, and that baffles me hard.

Seems to be about the subject of this thread, about I said nothing, but in which, as a long time Open Internet, Open Source, and Open Standards enthusiast have a strong interest - so I am following this thread carefully.


It is all about legal disclosure and purposeful exposure!

I hope you might like to join ISOC!

  • Your link doesn't work. You need to expand the answer describing what the Internet Society is and why it is relevant to the posted question. Link only answers are discouraged. There is also a Wikipedia page that is perhaps helpful. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Society
    – Eric S
    Commented Feb 26, 2022 at 22:44
  • This answer does not actually address the question and SE is not structured as “threads” but as a question followed by answers.
    – George White
    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 19:01

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