It's always fun when a story hits the blogosphere while you're stuck on a plane. :)
This will be short, because I'm connecting over a 14.4K modem line (I have the deepest sympathy for folks who still do this every day!), but I just want to say a few basic things about the RSS-related patent applications mentioned in the article and elsewhere.
First, these patents describe specific ways to improve the RSS end-user and developer experience (which we believe are valuable and innovative contributions) -- they do not constitute a claim that Microsoft invented RSS.
We have always fully acknowledged the innovators and supporters of RSS, like Dave Winer, Nick Bradbury and many others, and I can say, without hesitation, that I and my colleagues personally have the deepest respect for their invaluable contributions.
From the beginning we have sought an open and reasonable relationship with the RSS community. As one example, we have published various RSS and Atom extensions under a Creative Commons license. These specifications provide proof of our commitment to offer our contributions to the community and evidence of our efforts to advance the technology. We honestly hope that our work brings benefit to all feed publishers, developers and users, and we've been happy with the response we have received from the community so far.
Finally, as a number of commenters have noted, we are far from the only company to apply for patent protection in this space. Other companies, including Apple and Google, have apparently also applied for patents. Applying for a patent on your innovation is common industry practice, and one which, by incenting and protecting the companies and people involved, encourages everyone to contribute to the community.
I hope this helps put our position in perspective. I want to reiterate that my team and I are fully committed to RSS and feed syndication technologies in general and to the community. Please post any additional questions (I'm sure you didn't need an invitation :), and I'll get back to them in the new year.
Sean LyndersayProgram Manager Lead, RSS