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What exactly does a software patent protect?

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The example I'll give is the reason I'm asking.

Say I wanted to write a texture loading library which consists of two main classes, Texture, and CompressedTexture.

Texture holds data in a typical format independent pixmap sort of way, as an array of RGB(A) values, supporting the loading of various popular image formats.

CompressedTexture holds (surprise, surprise) compressed textures such as DXT style compressed images.

Now, if I wanted to write a routine that allowed me to convert a Texture to a CompressedTexture and vice versa(essentially implementing S3 Texture compression and decompression), would this violate the S3 patent?

Does a software patent protect like this a company's implementation of such a technology, or all such implementations?

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Software patents generally protect companies from other companies with software patents. That is, most patents are defensive, companies don't actively go out enforcing them. That doesn't protect you though.

IANAL, but according to the wikipedia:
Quote:

Like many modern image compression algorithms, S3TC only specifies the method used to decompress images, allowing implementers to design the compression algorithm to suit their specific needs, although the patent still covers compression algorithms.

Then again, you should really be talking to a lawyer rather than taking free legal advice.

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You could use nvidia-texture-tools. According to the FAQ, this library has a license to use S3TC.

If you really want to use your own implementation, I would first contact S3 before asking any lawyer for help. Chances are they'll actually let you use it for free under certain circumstances.

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