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Free Software Camps Wading Into VP8 Patent Fight 113

Posted by timothy
from the spearguns-would-be-good dept.
An anonymous reader writes "As reported by Slashdot, Nokia recently notified the IETF that its RFC 6386 video codec (aka VP8, released by Google under a BSD license with a waiver of that company's patent rights) infringed several dozen of its patents; furthermore, Nokia was not inclined to license them under FRAND (fair, reasonable, and non-discriminating) terms. While the list provided by Nokia looks intimidating, Pamela Jones at Groklaw discovered that many appeared to be duplicates except for the country of filing; and even within a single country (e.g. the U.S.), some appeared to be overlapping. In other words, there may be far fewer distinct patented issues than what appears on Nokia's IETF form. Thom Holwerda at OSNews also weighed in, recalling another case where sweeping patent claims by Qualcomm and Huawei against the Opus open source audio codec proved to be groundless FUD. The familiar name Florian Mueller pops up again in Holwerda's article."
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Free Software Camps Wading Into VP8 Patent Fight

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  • Thanks Microsoft! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@RABBI ... minus herbivore> on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @09:29AM (#43280273) Journal

    Thanks for the nostalgia and for reviving SCO in the guise of Nokia. It was nice of you to dig out Florian for a reprise too...

    • Nokia is dead to me (Score:5, Informative)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @11:17AM (#43281157) Homepage Journal

      And I say that as a booster who was happy with an n810 and the Qt work just a few years ago. Sorry about that cancer you got, Nokia (or was it MS?), but it's changed you and it's fatal.

      • by jonwil (467024)

        My current phone is a Nokia N900 but with all the crap they are doing, my next phone will definatly NOT be a Nokia (unless its another N900)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Nokia, the new SCO?

    • by guruevi (827432)

      It wouldn't surprise me if they brought Darl back to head up Nokia and they got an infusion of cash... oh wait... It just keeps rising from the dead.

  • by rakaz (79963) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @09:34AM (#43280315) Homepage

    Of course does the list contain duplicates. Patents are usually limited to specific jurisdictions. Patents granted by the US patent office are only valid in the US. That is why companies file the same patent in many jurisdictions. That does not make the list less intimidating, because for VP8 to be free they still need to be invalidated individually in many courts around the world. Just take a look at the recent case of Microsoft vs Motorola for how tricky this is. A US judge agrees with Microsoft, while a German judge agrees with Motorola.

    • by Xest (935314) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @09:41AM (#43280345)

      The point is, that if the patents all only cover one or two things, then you only need to do one or two things to get around the patents. It also means that there's only one or two things to try and invalidate, be it through prior art, obviousness or whatever.

      That's a much easier task than working around or fighting 89 or whatever distinct patents. Stating there are 89 patents overstates the relevance of them for no other reason than fear mongering because there aren't 89 or whatever different patents per se, just one or two different patents, filed in 30 odd jurisdictions or whatever the actual numbers are.

    • by CastrTroy (595695) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @09:51AM (#43280409) Homepage
      For things like VP8 which we wish to standardize and be patent free, there should be some process for giving patent holders a limited amount of time to come forward with their grievances so that we don't get so far into the process before we decide we have to drop the whole project because of an existing patent. I think this should probably exist for all things, but especially things we want to be patent free. It really bothers me when somebody has been selling a product 2 or 3 years, and then somebody comes around with a patent that's 10 years old, and then expects them to pay for all the infringing they did over the lifetime of the product. It bothers me so much that I even feel bad for companies like Sony when it happens to them.
      • It really bothers me when somebody has been selling a product 2 or 3 years, and then somebody comes around with a patent that's 10 years old, and then expects them to pay for all the infringing they did over the lifetime of the product.

        The exact same extortion is occuring now, threatening podcast producers with some bullshit patent trolling - only *after* it was finally becoming financially viable for the real creative artists.

    • Look at the links before commenting. The patents in the US also include multiple continuations. That is why several have the exact same titles.
    • Of course does the list contain duplicates. Patents are usually limited to specific jurisdictions. Patents granted by the US patent office are only valid in the US. That is why companies file the same patent in many jurisdictions.

      That's absolutely correct. However, there's another type of "duplicate" that Groklaw mentions, which is a continuation application:

      But even in the US-only context, you see the same title more than once. Those are continuations. What's that? It's where the really elaborate machinations live, and the submarine patents. It's how you argue with the USPTO when it doesn't approve your patent application or if it does how you keep adding to what you already got approved from the USPTO, something you can do over and over to time indefinite... Sigh. In other words, that's where you try to get more than you had in the beginning, maybe as you see what others are inventing so you can sue them. Blech. I so hate patent law.

      Well, of course PJ hates patent law, since her understanding of it is so flawed. In reality, continuation applications are new applications, tied to the parent, that are typically filed to claim an invention in a slightly different way, to fix errors in the claims, or to address other unclaimed aspects of the invention. For example:
      1) You claim A+B+C+D+E. The patent office dete

      • While I don't know law that well, submarine patents are a well-known concept. From your description, they seem impossible. So from your perspective, what are submarine patents, and how do they differ from continuations?

        • Submarine patent are like submarines. Hiding under the water waiting for the enemy to become entrenched and complacent and then spring to the surface and attack when it is least expected.

          If Nokia were to do that, they would wait a couple of years till VP8/WebM gets on hundreds of millions of devices and then start filing patent cases. In this case, they're declaring the standard allegedly infringes their patents and provided a list of patents. As usual, Groklaw exaggerates things to mislead folks and to ra

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Theaetetus (590071)

          While I don't know law that well, submarine patents are a well-known concept. From your description, they seem impossible. So from your perspective, what are submarine patents, and how do they differ from continuations?

          Submarine patents were a huge problem. Prior to 1995, (a) patent applications were not published until they were issuing, and (b) patents lived for 17 years from issue. So what you could do, if you were an evil sneaky bastard, would be to file an application in, say, 1970, and drag your heels on prosecuting it, asking for various examination delays and extensions. Say it issued in 1980 and published then (to expire in 1997)... You file a continuation application just before it issues, and again drag your he

    • by evilviper (135110)

      for VP8 to be free they still need to be invalidated individually in many courts around the world

      The EU doesn't enforce software patents in the first place, so there shouldn't be a problem with a WebRTC codec. it's only when implemented in dedicated hardware that the patents might be a concern, and enforcement on that is rare and contentious.

      And Google isn't going to be too concerned if VP8 is patent encumbered in Trinidad.

  • You don't say? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @09:35AM (#43280321)

    So when it comes time for MS to dish out more FUD Florian shows up? What a fucking surprise.

  • Florian Mueller (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @09:40AM (#43280343)

    At least when I see that name, I can ignore the quotes and comments as being nothing more than a paid shill spouting BS.

  • Pff, patents (Score:5, Interesting)

    by progician (2451300) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @10:27AM (#43280667) Homepage

    This is so boring, really. I really consider today's tech industry just a huge pile of fraudulent investor. All these patents fights are over a software algorithm shows that there's no real innovation here: just plain old incremental releases that are developed and researched completely different entities (after a certain size, R&D division is like almost a different company) have nothing patentable on them, not in the original intention behind the whole idea of patents. This whole patent-wars are completely wasteful and useless, but the corporate lobby prevent any attempt of legislation that aim to eliminate corporate patents over trivial matters, so we stuck with these companies spending millions of dollars on lawyers and patent fights, for whose benefit? Lawyer benefit.

    There has to be a point where it becomes so unbearable the whole idea of patents must be abolished and any company who participated in this fight must be also dismantled and assets to be redistributed.

  • From what I understand VP8 was based on the reference code for MPEG4 but modified to avoid all known patented methods. That seems inherently risky. Why not instead invest in SNOW or other wavelet encoding methods and leap ahead of the current MPEG standard?

  • Because being a Microsoft stooge is so fun.

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