updated 9/15/2004 8:41:54 PM ET 2004-09-16T00:41:54

Engineers in charge of setting technical standards for the Internet have rejected a preliminary spam-fighting proposal from Microsoft Corp. because of its patent claims.

Instead, a working group of the Internet Engineering Task Force will look into letting software developers decide whether to opt for a non-patented alternative.

Several members, including open-source proponents like the Apache Software Foundation, had objected to Microsoft's plans for licensing the so-called Sender ID technology. Those plans would prohibit software developers from further licensing the technology to others though the initial license would be free.

Objecting parties say Microsoft's scheme runs counter to open-source licensing terms. Microsoft spokesman Sean Sundwall said the company considers its terms generous and satisfactory to all but a vocal minority. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

The proposal in question calls for Internet service providers to submit lists of their mail servers' unique numeric addresses.

On the receiving end, software would poll a database to verify that a message was actually processed by one of those servers. The method to make that check is the patent for which Microsoft has applied. The nonproprietary alternative would use a different check.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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