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OpenGL and software patents

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Browsing OpenGL extensions at http://oss.sgi.com/projects/ogl-sample/registry/, I noticed that quite a lot of the extensions apparently are affected by software patents. To mention a few: S3TC texture compression (GL_EXT_texture_compression_s3tc), floating-point pixels/texels (GL_ARB_texture_float / GL_ARB_half_float_pixel), and occlusion querying (GL_ARB_occlusion_query). Additionally, Microsoft also claims to have (unspecified) patents related to programmable pixel shading. Living in Europe, I guess I don't need to worry about it, as we (still) don't regard software patents as valid. But I'm still a bit confused when it comes to how these patents work. Are application developers also affected by these patents? I.e. do they only concern OpenGL implementors? Should I simply avoid using the above mentioned extensions, if I don't want to be labeled a criminal in the US/other places where software patents are valid? Or doesn't it matter at all? :) Thanks, Rasmus Neckelmann

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Quote:
Original post by kadaf
Are application developers also affected by these patents? I.e. do they only concern OpenGL implementors?


IANAL however from my understanding of it all its the people who write the implimentation not the users who have to worry about that, so you can carry on using them.

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Thanks for your comforting reply, but I want to be 100% sure about the matter. I don't want invest 1000 hours of hard labor into something that only can live at the will of some random lawyers.

Isn't there someone in these forums who have developed games using any of the above GL extensions, and haven't paid royalties or licenses to anyone? If that's the case I'm probably on the safe side :)

(It's just a matter of time before software patents are introduced in EU, so it's better to be prepared.)

Thanks,
Rasmus Neckelmann

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Quote:
Original post by kadaf
Additionally, Microsoft also claims to have (unspecified) patents related to programmable pixel shading.

Since shaders were used in the first versions of Pixar's Renderman, I guess that MS will have hard time to prove that there is no prior art in this case.

Quote:
Original post by kadaf
Should I simply avoid using the above mentioned extensions, if I don't want to be labeled a criminal in the US/other places where software patents are valid?

Or doesn't it matter at all? :)

In this case, it doesn't matter. The driver supplies entry points for these functions - you don't implement them, you ue them. This is similar to using patent-covered Win32 core services in a Windows application (for example, using the SMB protocol to communicate with another Win32 server). The graphic chipset/driver supplier is already paying to allow you to use these extensions freely.

Regards,

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The microsoft core-3D patents are mainly ex-SGI patents, transfered in a 2002 deal
Here's some Background info on the deal.

From MS point of view, that includes the ARB_vertex_program extension. Mind you, that fracass was back in 2002, and OpenGL is still going strong (with subsets/variations/lookalikes available on the PS3, Revolution, PSP and mobile platforms). So maybe rumours of it's demise was premature.

Allan

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Quote:
Original post by Emmanuel Deloget
In this case, it doesn't matter. The driver supplies entry points for these functions - you don't implement them, you ue them. This is similar to using patent-covered Win32 core services in a Windows application (for example, using the SMB protocol to communicate with another Win32 server). The graphic chipset/driver supplier is already paying to allow you to use these extensions freely.


Sounds good. But what if I (for instance) want to store my textures in a S3TC format, so it's faster to transfer them to video memory on modern hardware, but I still want to support old non-S3TC capable hardware; can I then write my own S3TC decoder?
Sorry if I'm getting a bit far fetched, but it's still a relevant problem I think :)

Thanks,
Rasmus Neckelmann

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Hi... (from WIKIPEDIA)

A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by a state to a person for a fixed period of time in exchange for the regulated, public disclosure of certain details of a device, method, process or composition of matter (substance) (known as an invention) which is new, inventive, and useful or industrially applicable.

The exclusive right granted a patentee is the right to prevent others from making, using, selling, offering to sell or importing the claimed invention. The rights given to the patentee do not include the right to make, use, or sell the invention themselves. The patentee may have to comply with other laws and regulations to make use of the claimed invention.....

See the complete article here...

Now, draw your own conclusions...

That's the better we can do!
Jonathan

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Quote:
Original post by LowRad
The exclusive right granted a patentee is the right to prevent others from making, using, selling, offering to sell or importing the claimed invention.


...

Quote:
do not include the right to make

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Quote:
Original post by kadaf
...
(It's just a matter of time before software patents are introduced in EU, so it's better to be prepared.)


I just want to warn you that you can be sue for selling, offering to sell a patented product/software to a person living in a country that protect thoses products using patent such as: US, GB or Canada...

In this type of case you would be sue in the country in which you sold that product, even if it done via internet.

Be warn [totally]...
Jonathan

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Quote:
Original post by LowRad

I just want to warn you that you can be sue for selling, offering to sell a patented product/software to a person living in a country that protect thoses products using patent such as: US, GB or Canada...

In this type of case you would be sue in the country in which you sold that product, even if it done via internet.


This is actually an interesting concept:

If I have no legal entitiy (staff, company or other assets) in a company, how can I be impacted for a lawsuit.

Note that I'm not a lawyer, so this is just thinking aloud:

If, for example, one of our worthy members decided that GameDevelopment was too much like hard work, and that the real money was on selling pictures of women with questionable and negotiateable virtue over the internet (i.e. pr0n). Say a man in Iran decided to pay and download the content (which is not something endorsed by the teocrats in Teheran), and you end up being sued/indicted in Iran for purveying material degrading to the moral fiber of Iran's youth.

Now what can happen to you? They can convict you, and demand you pay a 1,000,000 USD fine for your offence, but their ability to actually make that stick is limited.

They can press for extradition (since this would be a criminal case; M$ wouldn't YET have that ability, and would need to wait for DMCA v.2.0), but the US is unlikely to extradite a citizen for commiting what they don't consider to be a crime. I WOULD be carefull about taking any holidays to the persian gulf for the next 20-30 years, though.

They can freeze and appropriate accessible assets; but you might not have wast amounts of ill-gotten cash stashed away in Teheranian banks, and so your exposure is limited. Without local staff or assets they can go after, there's very little they can do to you (note that your unfortunate customer is another matter entirely).

Now.. what happens if a Iranian Game Developer, with no branches or staff in the US, decides to sell a game that potentially violates MS owned patents, over the internet, into US?

Just thinking, is all...

Allan

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i'm from europe too and this entire matter disturbs me. how can you be sure some stupid laywer does not lay out things to sue you? for example those extensions. you say you can prevent somebody from making something with that patented stuff. but does this involve using a library? for exmaple in the case of GPL linking to a library and using it requires the app to go GPL itself, which is why LGPL has been made. now does this apply here too? hence if you link and use this function you are already bugged?

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You don't have to worry about the patent issues on the extensions.

You can use the extensions.

They comment on the patent issues in the extension specification so that other implementers (= hardware manufacturers and driver makers) can know about them and get permissions as needed.

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Quote:
Original post by RPTD
how can you be sure some stupid laywer does not lay out things to sue you?

Anybody can sue anybody else for anything they want. For example, you could sue me for this post saying that I defamed you or otherwise harmed you.

In most places, that type of law suit gets thrown out quickly, often with the accuser getting stuck with the bill for the accused's defense. There are also many deterrents for lawyers to prevent that type of law suits.

That is a normal risk of doing business. It is small, but it still exists.
Quote:
Original post by RPTD
for example those extensions. you say you can prevent somebody from making something with that patented stuff. but does this involve using a library? for exmaple in the case of GPL linking to a library and using it requires the app to go GPL itself, which is why LGPL has been made. now does this apply here too? hence if you link and use this function you are already bugged?

No, patents are not like that. Pilots don't need to acquire all the patent rights for all the pieces of the airplane.

You can use a library that implements processes protected by patent, assuming you believe the vendor has followed the law. You can reasonably argue that you have a valid license and assumed that the provider gave you a legal implementation. If ATI didn't properly license the technology, that's not your fault.

But if you get a library that says "This software violates the patent rules of the UK, USA, Australia and Japan; do not export or import it", then you better watch out.

The GPL is a different animal. It deals with copyright issues.

The whole point of the GPL is simple. If you use something from the community, anything you release must benefit the community. That is a good thing. If you don't like it, don't use stuff from the GPL community.

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