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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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 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 Parent Score: 0

RE[2]: Comment by static666
by pgeorgi on Sat 16th Jul 2011 06:22 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 Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by static666
by Soulbender on Sat 16th Jul 2011 11:53 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 Parent Score: 5

RE: Comment by static666
by jtinz on Sat 16th Jul 2011 10:14 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 Parent Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by static666
by lemur2 on Sat 16th Jul 2011 11:29 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 Parent Score: 5

RE: Comment by static666
by silix on Sat 16th Jul 2011 13:50 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 Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by static666
by madcrow on Sun 17th Jul 2011 18:54 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 Parent Score: 3

RE: Comment by static666
by lemur2 on Sun 17th Jul 2011 23:35 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 Parent Score: 3

RE: Comment by static666
by bassbeast on Tue 19th Jul 2011 11:44 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 Parent Score: 1