Linked by jrincayc on Fri 15th Jul 2011 17:14 UTC
Legal Patent term calculation is complicated in the US because there are essentially two different systems and quite a few corner cases. Even with a list of patents, it can be tricky to determine when the patents are all expired. Since I am a computer programmer (and not a lawyer), I created a program to try and automate this. This paper discusses how patent term calculation works, and some results from a combination of hand and automatic term calculation for MP3, MPEG-2 and H.264.
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Ouch
by Kalessin on Fri 15th Jul 2011 18:35 UTC
Kalessin
Member since:
2007-01-18

I think that my head just exploded.

That's some great info, but it's a bit of a brain overload. I'm very glad that I'm not a patent lawyer.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Ouch
by UltraZelda64 on Fri 15th Jul 2011 22:05 UTC in reply to "Ouch"
UltraZelda64 Member since:
2006-12-05

Yeah... definitely.

It's a bunch of bullshit that just should not be a problem in the first place the way I see it.

Edited 2011-07-15 22:05 UTC

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Ouch
by jrincayc on Fri 15th Jul 2011 22:56 UTC in reply to "RE: Ouch"
jrincayc Member since:
2007-07-24

I agree that it was way too much work. Here are some of my opinions:

I have never seen a decent justification of why software patents should last 20+ years. I can see why things like medications should last 20 years, since FDA testing lasts so long, but software is quick to think up and quick to test (and quick for someone else to think up as well). I also think that software could get along fine without patents. If we are going to have software patents, they should last less than 5 years.

Software patents should have pseudo code or source code. Lack of this makes it far to hard to figure out what the patent actually covers.

There were far too many ways to game the system before 1995, allowing patents to last much longer than 20 years. If that wasn't the case, MP3 would be patent free by the end of 2012 at the latest.

The US patent office should calculate a maximum patent term and put it in with the other patent information. Having to parse through English to figure out how long a patent lasts is ridiculous (My program uses several regular expressions to try and find out some of the information needed, and it fails for some of the more weird ways it is done).

There should be some way to mandate that patents that are essential for a standard are discovered. Right now, it is over 20 years since the MPEG-1 draft standard was created, and there is still enough uncertainty about MPEG-1 video to keep ppmtompeg out of distributions like OpenSUSE and Fedora. If something has been an ISO standard for five years, and you haven't added your patent to the ISO patent database, it should be too late to sue.

Reply Score: 4

RE[3]: Ouch
by ourcomputerbloke on Sat 16th Jul 2011 00:24 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Ouch"
ourcomputerbloke Member since:
2011-05-12

If we are going to have software patents, they should last less than 5 years. Software patents should have pseudo code or source code. Lack of this makes it far to hard to figure out what the patent actually covers.


IMHO all patents, hardware, software, medical, whatever, should have an automatic expiry five years after their first commercial application irrespective of what other timeframes are imposed, and none of this extending BS. If the new additions are significant enough to warranty an extension they should be patented separately.

I do believe the notion that software patents shouldn't exist is misguided, but each to his / her own.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Ouch
by Luminair on Sat 16th Jul 2011 19:26 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Ouch"
Luminair Member since:
2007-03-30

I'm not sure patents make sense. I don't understand the logic of restricting ideas to a certain organization for an arbitrary time period. The whole thing seems kind of arbitrary.

Reply Score: 3

RE[4]: Ouch
by FishB8 on Sun 17th Jul 2011 05:48 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Ouch"
FishB8 Member since:
2006-01-16

The purpose of patents is to ensure that companies / individuals get a return on investment in research and development. Without patents, there is no motivation to invest in research and development if somebody else can take the results (without contributing to the cost of the R&D) and beat you to market with a competing product.

This makes sense when applied to physical products. When applied to things like software, genetics, business methods, etc. like it has been, it is no longer beneficial to the community as a whole, and simply turns into government sanctioned thuggery. I have no doubt that there should be protections in these areas as well, but they need to be separate from patent law, with different rules, limitations and means of litigation that are tailored to the specific fields and result in a the best positive and balanced outcome for both the companies and communities as a whole.

Or, to be more direct for the sake of brevity: patent trolls should strung up by their nuts.

Reply Score: 4

RE[5]: Ouch
by Luminair on Sun 17th Jul 2011 18:04 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Ouch"
Luminair Member since:
2007-03-30

> The purpose of patents is to ensure that companies / individuals get a return on investment in research and development.

Maybe. I think I get that. It might just be greed though. I'm not sure government needs to get involved in this.

> Without patents, there is no motivation to invest in research and development if somebody else can take the results

A patent proponent might say that, but then you'd say "pick any open source business to disprove that." There is implicit benefit in being the innovator. Red Hat gives their code away, but Red Hat is still the expert of their code, and they are paid a premium for the business they build around that. So a counterexample. You don't necessarily need patents to make money off new inventions. I'm left unsure of patents. Sanctioned thuggery is an interesting term.

Reply Score: 4

win 95
by fran on Fri 15th Jul 2011 19:47 UTC
fran
Member since:
2010-08-06

so can i can install windows 95 on a few machines not probs 2016.

Reply Score: 2

RE: win 95
by Cody Evans on Fri 15th Jul 2011 20:30 UTC in reply to "win 95"
Cody Evans Member since:
2009-08-14

That is protected under copyright. You'll be allowed to install windows 95 without worry sometime in the mid 22nd century, barring future copyright extensions ofcourse...

Reply Score: 5

RE[2]: win 95
by danbuter on Sat 16th Jul 2011 17:19 UTC in reply to "RE: win 95"
danbuter Member since:
2011-03-17

I'm confident copyrights will be extended another 20 years as soon as Mickey Mouse starts getting close to going into public domain. He's the reason it got extended last time.

Reply Score: 5

RE: win 95
by jrincayc on Fri 15th Jul 2011 22:08 UTC in reply to "win 95"
jrincayc Member since:
2007-07-24

Well, more accurately things like WINE can re-implement windows 95 without it being likely there are patents. As Cody Evans mentioned Windows 95 itself is still copyrighted.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: win 95
by cb88 on Sat 16th Jul 2011 00:00 UTC in reply to "RE: win 95"
cb88 Member since:
2009-04-23

http://www.reactos.org/en/news_page_65.html

can't forget ReactOS even if it doesn't always work right it will probably work right before the 22 century ;)

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: win 95
by Bill Shooter of Bul on Sat 16th Jul 2011 15:26 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: win 95"
Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

Well, HURD is getting close too, So I guess I can't discount the possibility of a working ReactOS.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by static666
by static666 on Fri 15th Jul 2011 21:56 UTC
static666
Member since:
2006-06-09

I am not really that concerned since we have Vorbis, Speex, Theora, VP8 and others which come very close and in many cases surpass the patented offerings. These are examples of the very best in engineering efforts, as evading patented technologies and still making a superior product is so complicated.

As for MPEG-2, how come a technology that has been standardised by ISO is patented? Maybe some parts of it have been omitted from the standard? Like particular algorithms, modes or encoding profiles. But why standardise an incomplete/limited/broken technology in the first place then?

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by static666
by petete on Fri 15th Jul 2011 22:31 UTC in reply to "Comment by static666"
petete Member since:
2011-07-15

I wouldn't be so sure. All of those codecs can be attacked by submarine patents. There is no guarantee that Vorbis, Speex, Theora, VP8 are patent-free.

Reply Score: 0

RE[2]: Comment by static666
by pgeorgi on Sat 16th Jul 2011 06:22 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by static666"
pgeorgi Member since:
2010-02-18

All of those codecs can be attacked by submarine patents.

Submarine patents in their original meaning don't exist anymore: These were patents that were filed, but hold outside public view and before the clock started ticking by extending the patent text all the time.

The "clock skew" was worked around by moving to first filing date (instead of grant date), making it unattractive for the patent holder to amend patents all the time.
And I guess/hope the PTO only grants extensions if _they_ mess up, not when the patent holder amends the text to incorporates new state of the art.

The current issue is with patents that apply to some technology that weren't found on investigations, which eventually pop up.

here is no guarantee that Vorbis, Speex, Theora, VP8 are patent-free.

For Vorbis a patent search was done by AOL before some subsidiary (Nullsoft, I think) was allowed to use it. While this is still no guarantee, it's an indication that things aren't all that bad.

Theora and VP8 are _not_ patent-free, but each has the known set of patents licensed freely.

As for unknown patents, even MP3 was hit by them. Sisvel/AudioMPEG showed up late and broke the single-shop approach of mp3licensing.com

The same could happen to MPEG-LA's portfolio.
A holder of a matching patent could kill (eg.) h.264 by licensing their patent in a way that excludes parallel licensing from MPEG-LA.

This would also kill the value of that patent, but could be a strategic option, and there's nothing MPEG-LA could do about it (except by trying to invalidate the patent).

This is why they (or any other licensor) won't indemnify their licensees.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Comment by static666
by jrincayc on Sun 17th Jul 2011 15:00 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by static666"
jrincayc Member since:
2007-07-24

The current issue is with patents that apply to some technology that weren't found on investigations, which eventually pop up.


We need a term for this. I some times think these should be called iceberg patents since most of them are hidden and hard to find.

The same could happen to MPEG-LA's portfolio.
A holder of a matching patent could kill (eg.) h.264 by licensing their patent in a way that excludes parallel licensing from MPEG-LA.


I think it would be entertaining to see what would happen if a holder of an essential H.264 patent required all implementations to be licensed by the GPL3 or another license that had similar patent provisions to the GPL3.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by static666
by Soulbender on Sat 16th Jul 2011 11:53 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by static666"
Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

There's no guarantee that any software is patent-free. Welcome to life, it doesn't come with guarantees.

Reply Score: 5

RE: Comment by static666
by jtinz on Sat 16th Jul 2011 10:14 UTC in reply to "Comment by static666"
jtinz Member since:
2006-02-06

I am not really that concerned since we have Vorbis, Speex, Theora, VP8 and others which come very close and in many cases surpass the patented offerings.


What makes you think that these formats are not covered by patents? Are you aware that the patent claims on JPEG only surfaced after the format had been in use for over fifteen years?

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by static666
by lemur2 on Sat 16th Jul 2011 11:29 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by static666"
lemur2 Member since:
2007-02-17

"I am not really that concerned since we have Vorbis, Speex, Theora, VP8 and others which come very close and in many cases surpass the patented offerings.


What makes you think that these formats are not covered by patents? Are you aware that the patent claims on JPEG only surfaced after the format had been in use for over fifteen years?
"

Some of these formats are indeed covered by patents. Google owns the patents.

Everybody worldwide has a perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free zero cost license to use these fine replacement technologies.

As for possible patents held by other parties:

(1) For Vorbis and Theora, people have been screeching warnings for many years about possible patents held by other parties. None have come to light.

(2) As for VP8, apart from the patents owned now by Google ... Google did a thorough patent search before the purchased On2 and hence the patents for VP8, and they found no other patents which apply.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/05/20/google_confident_on_vp8_and...

Today, when The Reg asked if VP8 was vulnerable to patent attack, Google product manager Mike Jazayeri indicated this isn't a big concern for the company.

"We have done a pretty through analysis of VP8 and On2 Technologies prior to the acquisition and since then, and we are very confident with the technology and that's why we're open sourcing," he said.


It was only because Google were very confident about the patent coverage of VP8 that they even bought the On2 company in the first place. It should also be pointed out that before Google bought On2, no-one had sued On2 over VP8 patents then, either.

MPEG LA made a call for other parties to submit patents they believe read on VP8

http://www.mpegla.com/main/pid/vp8/default.aspx
"initial submissions should be made by March 18, 2011"

This was a very risky thing to do, given the MPEG LA monopoly over H.264, because any party with an obscure patent that did read on VP8, one somehow missed by Google's patent lawyers' allegedly thorough search, should of course negotiate with Google first. I think MPEG LA are now under anti-trust investigation over this call.

Edited 2011-07-16 11:38 UTC

Reply Score: 5

RE: Comment by static666
by silix on Sat 16th Jul 2011 13:50 UTC in reply to "Comment by static666"
silix Member since:
2006-03-01

As for MPEG-2, how come a technology that has been standardised by ISO is patented? Maybe some parts of it have been omitted from the standard? Like particular algorithms, modes or encoding profiles. But why standardise an incomplete/limited/broken technology in the first place then?
"standards" (even more so ISO standards like MPEG) are not "knowledge", that must (or should, at least ideally) be accessible to anyone for free (thus, public domain)...
their point is merely interoperability between *industrial* products (say, between a factory made dvd player and a factory stamped dvd-video, or a professional tool that will be used to author the dvd itself)
it's NOT to let *anyone* design and make his own thing possibily disregarding relevant parties that have a right to get their work compensated

and (most important, their intended) target is not the general public , it's members of the industry who can afford to pay for other parties' IP contained in their products (which becomes simply another item in the BOM)

OTOH nothing forbids one being a design-only firm, choose to work on algorithms alone, and yet retain the right to propose their own work as (/part of) industrial standards (it's others' choice to approve or follow them as such or not) and receive compensation for it..

welcome to the industry as it works..

Edited 2011-07-16 13:52 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by static666
by madcrow on Sun 17th Jul 2011 18:54 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by static666"
madcrow Member since:
2006-03-13

The only standards body that seems to care about creating freely-implementable standards is the W3C. Most other bodies either don't care about patents or even prefer patentable solutions. The ISO is among the worst offenders in this area.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Comment by static666
by lemur2 on Sun 17th Jul 2011 23:35 UTC in reply to "Comment by static666"
lemur2 Member since:
2007-02-17

I am not really that concerned since we have Vorbis, Speex, Theora, VP8 and others which come very close and in many cases surpass the patented offerings. These are examples of the very best in engineering efforts, as evading patented technologies and still making a superior product is so complicated.


Aside from Vorbis, Speex, Theora and VP8 the "others" which you mention that may be useful are Dirac, FLAC and CELT.

FLAC is lossless, which is useful where storage space or bandwidth is not the prime concern, but quality is. Digital mastering is an application that comes to mind. The newest audio codec from Xiph.org is CELT, which is useful for Speech, VoIP, Low latency, Studio/transmitter link, wireless audio. Exactly the opposite scenario, where bandwidth and low latency are the primary considerations.

As far as I know, Vorbis, FLAC and CELT are actually the best codecs to use in each of the scenarios they are designed for. Vorbis is better than mp3, for example, FLAC is as good as any other lossless format, and CELT is as good as any other for low latency, low bandwidth application.

There has been a lot of argument over the comparitive performance of VP8 versus H.264, but when it first was released by Google out VP8 was very marginally behind the best H.264 encoder. VP8 however has twice been upgraded by Google since then, with approximately 6% performance improvements each time, and the third upgrade codenamed "Cayuga" is due out very soon now.

http://blog.webmproject.org/2011/03/next-up-libvpx-cayuga.html

One doesn't lose anything (other than an obligation to pay royalties) by choosing to use unencumbered codecs.

Edited 2011-07-17 23:37 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE: Comment by static666
by bassbeast on Tue 19th Jul 2011 11:44 UTC in reply to "Comment by static666"
bassbeast Member since:
2007-11-11

Well first of all claiming Theora is in anyway close the H.264? Sorry but you're dreaming. You'll need twice the filesize to get comparable picture quality. And frankly Ogg is a very badly designed container* with numerous problems.

Second if you think any of those are free of getting hit by the patent hammer? think again. Have you SEEN the MPEG-LA patents? we are talking about over 200 patents covering just about every stage of compression and decompression. They haven't been hit by the hammer yet simply because they are a teeny tiny niche not worth chasing by MPEG-LA. If you were able to actually get the public (who frankly doesn't care about this mess because their devices "just work" and that is all they care about) to use these codecs? they would spend the next decade in court.

That is why thinking you can geek around this stuff is simply a fallacy. the ONLY way to deal with this stuff is in the courts not in the lab. Sadly I doubt anyone in the know has enough money for the massive bribes it will take to get congress to do anything about it so things will only get worse. Of course the net result will be a major WIN for China and India who won't play our little reindeer games and thus will still get to innovate while the corps in the USA go "where's my check?". All the rest of us can do is wait for the patent clock to run out, or in the case of copyrights hope our great great great grand-kids live long enough to see something actually enter the public domain again.

*-http://hardwarebug.org/2010/03/03/ogg-objections/">Ogg

Reply Score: 1

Confused
by ingraham on Fri 15th Jul 2011 22:10 UTC
ingraham
Member since:
2006-05-20

If the H.264 standard came out in 2003, how is it possible that a patent on it could last until 2027? At the latest, wouldn't it expire in 2023?

Edited 2011-07-15 22:10 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE: Confused
by jrincayc on Fri 15th Jul 2011 22:37 UTC in reply to "Confused"
jrincayc Member since:
2007-07-24

That is a good question, since it shouldn't happen that way. However, as I explained in the article, US 7826532, filed in 2003 has a 1546 day extension. I haven't checked how it managed to get an over 4 year extension.

http://patft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?patentnumber=7826532
http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=2onYAAAAEBAJ

Reply Score: 2

The sad irony of it all
by vitae on Sat 16th Jul 2011 07:46 UTC
vitae
Member since:
2006-02-20

"In 1997, five years after the lawsuit was decided, all lingering infringement questions against Microsoft regarding the Lisa and Macintosh GUI as well as Apple's "QuickTime piracy" lawsuit against Microsoft were settled in direct negotiations."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Computer,_Inc._v._Microsoft_Corp...

God forbid, they should have settled it BEFORE it tied up the courts unnecessarily, and now things have gotten completely out of control.

Reply Score: 2

European patents
by jtinz on Sat 16th Jul 2011 09:50 UTC
jtinz
Member since:
2006-02-06

So far, I've only skimmed the article and it looks like only US patents are covered. That's a bit strange as the mp3 format was developed in Germany. Furthermore, Sisvel manages supposedly relevant European patents that are not part of any patent pool and is extremely aggressive about it.

Reply Score: 2

RE: European patents
by jrincayc on Sun 17th Jul 2011 15:10 UTC in reply to "European patents"
jrincayc Member since:
2007-07-24

I would love for someone to do the same thing for the European patents (and Japanese ...), but as for me, it took enough time just to do the US patents. I think I have spent around a 100 hours figuring out the patent law, fiddling with the patent information grabbing code, getting the patents in a usable form, and writing the article. (This doesn't count the time I spent writing the previous version before people on Wikipedia told me I needed fix my previous versions because I failed to take into account continuations and divisions http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:MPEG-2#Patents )

Reply Score: 1

lemur2
Member since:
2007-02-17

One solution is simply to use Vorbis, Theora and WebM.

Everybody worldwide has a perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free zero cost license to use these fine replacement technologies.

Reply Score: 2

jrincayc Member since:
2007-07-24

I agree that it is good to use Vorbis, Theora and WebM, but that still doesn't help if the video you want to see is encoded in MPEG-2 or the audio you want to hear is encoded in MP3. Unlike the GIF format, both encoding and decoding of MP3, MPEG-2 and H.264 are patented.

Edited 2011-07-19 02:47 UTC

Reply Score: 1

lemur2 Member since:
2007-02-17

I agree that it is good to use Vorbis, Theora and WebM, but that still doesn't help if the video you want to see is encoded in MPEG-2 or the audio you want to hear is encoded in MP3. Unlike the GIF format, both encoding and decoding of MP3, MPEG-2 and H.264 are patented.


Users can help each other if they use Vorbis, Theora and WebM.

Fortunately there are free tools available to covert existing data into free formats. Here is an example:

http://www.mirovideoconverter.com/

I can't tell you anything about the possible expectation to pay royalties for the tool itself, but once you have converted your data you can presumably get rid of the conversion tool and you are then home free from then on, as is anyone else you might want to share your multimedia files with (legal files, e.g. videos you took yourself). If your legit multimedia file is in WebM format, no-one has any legal claim over you. You are no longer constrained by what large corporations may want to restrict you to, for example you can copy your file wherever you please without DRM restrictions getting in your way.

Edited 2011-07-19 03:43 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Actually, patent management software
by _xenu on Sat 16th Jul 2011 15:39 UTC
_xenu
Member since:
2011-07-16

already exists. And yes, its patented. Amusingly enough, you could be violating the patent just by posting this article.

Reply Score: 1

Patent Utilities
by Woolwit on Sun 17th Jul 2011 04:14 UTC
Woolwit
Member since:
2011-07-17

Based on the work you did to build your Patent Utilities, can you comment on how difficult it would be to build a service that could automatically report which patents were about to expire?

Reply Score: 1

RE: Patent Utilities
by jrincayc on Sun 17th Jul 2011 15:14 UTC in reply to "Patent Utilities"
jrincayc Member since:
2007-07-24

That depends on how accurate you want it to be. If you just wanted to use my patent library as it is, its probably less than a week of work.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Patent Utilities
by Woolwit on Mon 18th Jul 2011 09:01 UTC in reply to "RE: Patent Utilities"
Woolwit Member since:
2011-07-17

I would think that that could be valuable information - to traders, biotech, etc. I wasn't able to find anyone offering that info as a service. If you could build it in a week I think you might have an interesting startup! Not sure what the business model would be exactly but something along the lines of: Paid to get info early; Free to see what expired after the fact.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Patent Utilities
by Woolwit on Mon 18th Jul 2011 09:02 UTC in reply to "RE: Patent Utilities"
Woolwit Member since:
2011-07-17

I would think that that could be valuable information - to traders, biotech, etc. I wasn't able to find anyone offering that info as a service. If you could build it in a week I think you might have an interesting startup! Not sure what the business model would be exactly but something along the lines of: Paid to get info early; Free to see what expired after the fact.

Reply Score: 1