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The Significance of CPPA v2

Date:      Sat, 23 Nov 2002 23:50:34 -0800 (PST)
From:      Jon Bosak <Jon.Bosak@Sun.COM>
Subject:   The significance of CPPA v2

With the approval of ebXML CPPA v2 as an OASIS Standard this month, I think it would be useful to reflect for a moment on the significance of this milestone for ebXML and for electronic commerce in general.

The standardization of OASIS ebXML CPPA v2 is of epochal importance for two reasons.

First, the technology itself is central to the XML realization of the EDI trading model and, beyond that, to the implementation of large-scale B2B projects in general. It will be recalled that ebXML CPPA was originally developed by IBM as tpaML, the Trading Partner Agreement Markup Language. Some idea of the importance of IBM's contribution of tpaML to the ebXML initiative in early 2000 can be gained from an excellent IBM white paper on tpaML that can be found at:

For the convenience of people who might be reading this message offline, I've included a copy of that paper below.

IBM's original concept for the use of tpaML can be found in a presentation at:

Though much of the emphasis in this presentation is on the use of tpaML in the specific context of IBM's business process framework, it gives a good idea of the central role that tpaML was intended to play in IBM's plans for ecommerce and the similar role that CPPA will play in the ebXML ecommerce infrastructure.

The second reason that CPPA v2 will be of central importance for B2B has to do with the status of the intellectual property related to its implementation. In a message to OASIS dated 28 March 2002 (, IBM disclosed that it had a patent "which relates to or is essential to compliant implementations of OASIS ebXML Collaboration Protocol Profiles (CPP's) and Collaboration Protocol Agreements (CPA's) specifications." The patent referred to is US Patent 6,148,290 (Service Contract for Managing Service Systems), filed in September 1998 and issued in November 2000. The full text of the patent can be obtained by entering its number into the database at:

The abstract reads as follows:

A service contract system for providing a service includes a communication network, a plurality of parties coupled to the communication network and a service contract specifying unambiguous rules of interaction for the parties during transactions for the service. A method for managing service transactions between a plurality of parties coupled to a communication network, includes the steps of jointly developing a service contract having unambiguous rules of interaction between the plurality of parties regarding a service, registering the service contract in each of the plurality of parties and generating, from the service contract, enforcer modules consistent with the rules of interaction for managing transactions of the service.

It seems clear to this non-lawyer that the patent covers features that might be essential to the implementation of a wide variety of ecommerce systems, not just ebXML. It's significant, therefore, that in May 2002, IBM promised to grant royalty-free licenses to all IBM patents required by CPPA v1 and v2 and committed to continue providing RF licenses for subsequent versions of CPPA.

The royalty-free license was later extended to open-source software as well.

Much has been made of the fact that CPPA v2 still cannot be considered completely unencumbered, but it remains, to my knowledge, the only application of the technology covered by the relevant IBM patents that IBM has publicly pledged to license royalty-free. The practical effect of this as far as I can see is to make ebXML the only TPA-based B2B ecommerce framework that can be implemented without incurring a future obligation to pay royalties to IBM for the TPA component.


[The IBM paper: "Executable Trading-Partner Agreements in Electronic Commerce, by Martin Sachs, Asit Dan, Thao Nguyen, Robert Kearney, Hidayatullah Shaikh, and Daniel Dias (IBM T. J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Hts, NY, USA).]


Prepared by Robin Cover for The XML Cover Pages archive. See: "Electronic Business XML Initiative (ebXML)."

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