Home > Oracle and SUN > Sun looking to patent 3D desktop interface Sun looking to patent 3D desktop interface Eugenia Loli 2004-10-01 Oracle and SUN 38 Comments Sun’s 3D desktop dubbed Project Looking Glass, was released under the GPL a few months ago. However, it now seems Sun is looking to patent the Project Looking Glass interface according to this report. About The Author Eugenia Loli Ex-programmer, ex-editor in chief at OSNews.com, now a visual artist/filmmaker. Follow me on Twitter @EugeniaLoli 38 Comments 2004-10-01 12:23 am I don’t think you can patent GPL software. 2004-10-01 12:25 am Ok, rereading the GPL I see that you can patent GPL software but it must be freely licensed or not licensed at all. How does patenting Looking Glass help Sun in any way? 2004-10-01 12:28 am They’re for spesific “innovations” that can be deployed within the PLG. However these so called innovations are highly suspect as they appear to be nothing more than features to allow the user to manipulate the 3d window as one might do if they were real objects. e.g scribble notes on the back of a paper. 2004-10-01 12:34 am @Abraxas: Patenting the software prevents somebody else from patenting it first. It also allows Sun to sell or license proprietory implementations of the technology free of the GPL. 2004-10-01 12:34 am Seems pretty interesting and cool! Wonder if there’s any OSS version in the works. 2004-10-01 12:38 am This is pathetic. All of these recent patent disputes are signs that the patent system has been used and abused beyond all recognition. I think the best thing we can do is to scrap it and start over again. In the new system I think only individuals and not-for-profit organizations should be allowed to apply for patents. Companies have done plenty to suck money out of hard working engineers and scientists with this patent law B.S. Now they are extorting the same money from other corporations and using it to squelch true progress. Can’t we all say that enough is enough? 2004-10-01 12:39 am No matter. Sun has never been able to produce anything pretty on the desktop, and I doubt they will now. 2004-10-01 12:53 am one could argue that since it is gpl.. that the patent makes little difference.. sun may at some time insist that if people use it that they pay sun for it.. it may still be under the gpl.. unless im wrong.. the gpl doesnt require one to not charge for the software.. what it does mean is that sun must make the source code freely available. Either way.. if they do,i see little use for something that is merely eye candy. 2004-10-01 1:02 am “I was reserving judgment on Sun in respect to their agreement with Microsoft, but it appears they really have joined the Microsoft camp. How long until MS aquires Sun?” Likely never. Even if MS want to, I can’t imagine the SEC allowing such a purchase and I don’t think the justice dept. would be to wild about it either. Many of the major software companies have similar agreements with each other, nothing really new about that. While Novell, IBM, Symantec, Adobe, and others all see Microsoft as a major competitor, they are still joined much tighter than most of us are aware of. There are years of existing ink between all these Fatcats. Documents released as part of the SCO lawsuit offer a slight peek at only a few of the deals made between these guys over the years. 2004-10-01 1:02 am I suppose if they don’t patent it, MS will. 2004-10-01 1:36 am Isn’t this prior art? 2004-10-01 1:37 am So now it’s ‘Plan B’ – patent it and try and make a commercial desktop environment they can license to others. Of course, being Sun. they will screw up on this like every other GUI technology they ever touched. Dumped NeWS. Stupid. Dumped NeXT. Stupid. left CDE to stagnate for a decade or so. Stupid. Dumped AWT for no particularly good reason. Stupid. Didnt bother to make Swing perform acceptably until ‘Java 5’ halfheartedly adopted GNOME for Solaris. Just Retarded. Rolled out GNOME 2 on Linux under a different name (Java Desktop System) because – i guess they think their customers are idiots. Stupid. They dragged their feet for so long getting Java3D etc available on Linux that there is just about nobody developing anything Java3D related on Linux, AFAIK. Please correct me if i’m wrong, but last time i checked it was simply easier to use any one of the other bazillion C/C++ scene-graph APIs than Java3D. Anyway, everyone including Sun tends to gloss over the biggest and simplest problem with these APIs. The lack of authoring tools. You can (relatively speaking) count the number of coders who have the artistic talent necessary to create content for these engines on one hand, and without the content, you have nothing – just a demo with a staggeringly steep learning curve. Look at the sheer volume and quality of content created with tools like Maya or 3DS Max comapared to POV-Ray, and you’ll get an idea of the difference between having tools and having technology. Seriously, i think the only scene-graph API that really has much of a future on the Linux platform is Verse (linked off blender.org) , due to it’s direct integration with Blender and the GIMP. There are a number of game engines that could probably quite easily support GUI widget rendering in 3D, all of which come with vastly superior toolsets for creating 3D objects to Java3D. 2004-10-01 2:05 am The patent is not necessairly bad for open source. After all, if Sun already GPLd it, then they can’t undo that. So they can’t charge a licensing fee for the code. What Sun CAN do however, is protect itself as well as the OSS developers working on the GPL version from someone else getting a patent on it and then claiming patent infringement. So basically, in this case, the patent probably protects Sun and the OSS community. 2004-10-01 2:35 am A lot of open-source licenses are including parts that grant patent licenses. The GPL doesn’t. If Sun patents Looking Glass, they can require royalties for anyone using Looking Glass. The royalties aren’t for the Looking Glass code which is copyrighted and under the GPL. The royalties are for whatever the patents are for. I’m sure someone will say that the GPL says that you have to be able to distribute it freely or you can’t distribute it at all. Well, whose option is it to enforce that? Sun’s. If you want to look at it this way, any patents Sun gets can effectively take away the GPL that is on Looking Glass. The GPL says that it is irrivocable. That is true, but it also doesn’t give a patent grant. If Sun patents part of it, they can stop you from using it – or at least the infringing parts. 2004-10-01 2:54 am Patenting the software prevents somebody else from patenting it first. I suppose if they don’t patent it, MS will. Simply not true. All they have to do (if they wanted to avoid patents, that is) is just publish their work in the public. Then it’s prior art. I suppose Sun would do this so that they have an ‘arsenal’ to counterbalance MS’s ‘arsenal’, or anyone else’s ‘arsenal’ of patents. Stupid. 2004-10-01 3:06 am What a stupid comment, I mean look MS would NEVER release anything under the GPL or any liberal open source license, look sun has released plenty. They made The 3d desktop if they want to patent it they have the right to if laws in place for them to do so. However.. I think software patents are dumb.. i like all other patents though… dosent really affect me as long as i could use it for free… who cares really alot of biased talk against sun will now go on about how the are just like microsoft.. what BS 2004-10-01 3:39 am “Simply not true. All they have to do (if they wanted to avoid patents, that is) is just publish their work in the public. Then it’s prior art. ” Wrong. because that doesn’t stop someone else from coming along and saying it was their idea and that Sun stole it and then made it public. 2004-10-01 3:58 am All you need is to be able to show prior art. Looking Glass is big enough a project that there’s no way someone would be able to patent it under Sun. Also, Since looking glass is GPL’d, i don’t think there’s any way Sun can prevent a fork which causes Sun to completely lose control of the project. This patent request is curious. 2004-10-01 4:12 am Has anyone considered that the idea behind this patent is a white knight sort of a thing. You patent it just so that someone else doesn’t come along and say “We had it first” and simply never actually enforce the patent? Or better yet, release the patent into the public domain? There are quite a number of example of this IIRC, though I can’t remember any off the top of my head. 2004-10-01 4:25 am “Also, Since looking glass is GPL’d, i don’t think there’s any way Sun can prevent a fork which causes Sun to completely lose control of the project.” You are right. Sun can’t pull back the code they already GPLed. Once you GPL code, it is non-revokable. They can choose not to release future versions under the GPL, but they can’t pull back any code they have already GPLd. And this is why I think that Sun is getting the patent to protect themselves, and possibly the GPL community against porprietary intersts trying to claim intelectual rights to the technology in the code. After all, no one wants another OpenOffice right? This way if someone tries to come along and claim rights to the code, they have no legal standing to it because Sun will have the patent to prove it was their idea. 2004-10-01 5:20 am It’s a defensive patent, relax. “If the patents are granted, Sun will donate any money they generate to charities, Schwartz said.” 2004-10-01 5:29 am I hope the GPL starts blocking patents like it blocks restrictive copyrighting/licensing. I heard they will be adding something regarding patents to the next GPL but not sure what. Then these on the fence kind of licensing for projects can be prevented entirely. Patents have the exact opposite philosophy of GNU and serve no purpose in co-existing. People have already stated that when work is released into the public it can not be patented by anyone else. It can’t even be patented by the original author(s) past a year of publicating the work (in the USA). Now, whether patents are or are not needed in today’s economy for companies to operate is a non-issue, they definitely are. Mostly because of the issues with companies using their patents offensively against other bigger or smaller companies. The smaller or larger company can come back with their patents and tell the other one off. As long as our economy works off money and not good will or sharing, letting companies obtain patents and lock out everyone from an idea will have to remain a reality. The GNU philosophy is a step towards the good will/sharing ideal. A lot more needs to be done before we can entirely get rid of patents or trademarks. Software provides a starting ground for a sharing philosophy like GNU’s because of the ease and low cost of distribution of work. Before this philosophy can become the norm an ENORMOUS amount of work has to be done outside of the realm of software. We have to work to build another economy built on open distribution of ideas, works, and resources between one another. We’re talking about a revolution-level occurrence, something I’d personally love to see. Patents and trademarks will not go away until the above is accomplished. I consider the current system with them in place a necessary trade off until we can develop the idealistic free distribution. I don’t mean free as in no cost, everything costs (even free as in beer software costs someone), but free as in freedom. Let’s create and open distribution channels between everyone, not restrict them like today’s complex system. Software is proving to be a good starting ground for this “distribution revolution.” 2004-10-01 5:40 am “I hope the GPL starts blocking patents like it blocks restrictive copyrighting/licensing. I heard they will be adding something regarding patents to the next GPL but not sure what.” If the GPL had a clause like that in it, there is a good chance Sun would never have GPLed it in the first place. 2004-10-01 6:04 am I found the following section in the preamble of the current GPL: Finally, any free program is threatened constantly by software patents. We wish to avoid the danger that redistributors of a free program will individually obtain patent licenses, in effect making the program proprietary. To prevent this, we have made it clear that any patent must be licensed for everyone’s free use or not licensed at all. Section 7 also states that if the work is found to infringe on a patent or extra conditions are added by a company that has a patent on the work then the work no longer is distributable under the GPL. I already new that the patent filed has to be explicitly granted distribution for each condition of the GPL (or entirely condition-less distribution of the ideas it covers.. ie public domain) for the GPL to remain effective/applicable. I still consider such a patent a step in the wrong direction because it only serves to further complicate the distribution process. 2004-10-01 6:20 am “prior art” is in the eye of the beholder. It’s not a done deal. A lot of things in the history of computing are examples of prior art being demostrated by folks other than those with the actual rights to it. MS currently claims patents to things that were shown by others; Certainly doesn’t mean they don’t still hold the rights to it. What was the arrangement with the third party? These are the things us little folks have no access to. 2004-10-01 6:27 am I was reserving judgment on Sun in respect to their agreement with Microsoft, but it appears they really have joined the Microsoft camp. How long until MS aquires Sun? Even RedHat and IBM file patents. There’s a general consensus IBM allows patented applications for FOSS. RedHat has an insurrance they won’t sue you (ie. you may ‘use’ the patent) if you use it for FOSS-related efforts. I find it very doubtable Sun will ask you to pay for usage of Looking Glass. They actually want you to use and develop it. They want you to use Java. Besides, it would be both counterproductive to the GPL and wouldn’t be good karma for Sun. Therefore i think they have different reasons instead of harrasing the FOSS community. For example harrasing one who develops a proprietary counterpart. Anyone got a link to the patents in question btw? Or a link to a review from a lawyer? 2004-10-01 7:00 am You take what you may get, or distribute what you may distribute, under the GPL. The no patent clause would just be icing on the cake, even if a few companies wouldn’t like it. There are few companies out there that have released patented work under the GPL. Those that have, have served to cause considerable confusion and greatly lowered their user count because of it. It not only adds to the complexity and confusion but serves to cause a certain level of doubt because many people lack trust in IP law. Look at the response to the RTLinux patent and how little it is being distributed/developed in the free software community for an example. If you’re the license holder of the work you can release the work under as many different licenses you want. Many companies have multiple licenses for their work without holding any patents on it. Again, patents on software only serve to further complicate the distribution process. There are a number of issues I see that could cause patented work to eventually be prevented from GPL distribution thanks to section 7, even if the patent was originally stated (by the patentee) to comply with the conditions of the GPL. Patents are not ideal here because they cover ideas while software copyright only covers a particular implementation. Patents can prevent any implementation of the idea for 18+ years. Patents cover the entire work, copyright covers a percentage of the work. There is great ignorance in the intellectual property system. People are actually told not to study patents because if they did have prior knowledge of a patent covering their work they would be susceptible to even more damages. A better idea for the GNU/free (me) folks is to greatly study patents and copyrighted work so they can use them to their advantage by providing the only implementations _known_ to not be IP encumbered. We should retroactively make changes to our work so they are entirely IP compliant. A lot of people would feel even safer and more sure that way. 2004-10-01 7:18 am From Redhat’s patent policy: http://www.redhat.com/legal/patent_policy.html Our Promise: Each party relying on Our Promise acknowledges that Our Promise is not an assurance that Red Hat’s patents are enforceable or that the exercise of rights under Red Hat’s patents does not infringe the patent or other intellectual property rights of any other entity. Red Hat disclaims any liability to any party relying on Our Promise for claims brought by any other entity based on infringement of intellectual property rights or otherwise. As a condition to exercising the Patent Rights permitted by Our Promise hereunder, each relying party hereby assumes sole responsibility to secure any other intellectual property rights needed, if any. This wasn’t an attack on Redhat, writings like the above are common with basically every company who holds so called defensive patents. Further filing more patents to defend from other patents is an example of broken usage of the system. It’s not necessary and it just serves to complicate things even more. 2004-10-01 8:04 am Metisse: http://insitu.lri.fr/~chapuis/metisse/ 2004-10-01 8:36 am Isn’t this prior art? How about Xerox Rooms? http://www.ickn.org/elements/hyper/cyb59.htm Sun are having a laugh. 2004-10-01 9:12 am Is the Sun really trying to set itself ? It seems like so with the recent developments! 2004-10-01 12:45 pm We can clearly see this year that SUN is going the Microsux way: Betraying the consumer and OSS community + patenting everything. How nice. 2004-10-01 2:03 pm Eugenia fix the link 2004-10-01 3:23 pm @Abraxas: Patenting the software prevents somebody else from patenting it first. It also allows Sun to sell or license proprietory implementations of the technology free of the GPL. It also prevents anyone else from publishing a proprietary piece of software that does the same thing (unless the pay a royalty), i.e. stops the likes of MS ripping them off. 2004-10-01 3:23 pm In fact, the GPL does distinctly allow GPL’d software to be patented, so long as that patent does not restrtict the use, modification, or redistribution of the software or its source code: “any patent must be licensed for everyone’s free use or not licensed at all.”  Quote taken from the seventh paragraph of the GNU General Public License’s Preamble. 2004-10-01 4:01 pm Eugenia, the link “Project Looking Glass” is pointing to OSNEWS website. 2004-10-01 7:12 pm I’m sure there are many OSes with 3D GUIs in the works. Sun didn’t invent the idea. In fact, like copyright, it’s not the idea that can be copyrighted, but the specific pattern or sequence that is put together to produce the idea. Although, patents are a little more toward the idea. Nevetheless, there are going to be a lot of 3D GUIs. It’s one of the next new things. I’ve already been working toward a 3D desktop environment, myself, with my OS. I’m also QUITE certain (thanks to logs) that Sun Microsystem employees have visited for a look-see. 😉 –EyeAm (a rebel to the status quo) http://s87767106.onlinehome.us/mes/NovioSite/index.html 2004-10-01 8:14 pm In addition to the above comments, it’s also possible to license your patent for GPL software only. This allows you to use your patent in GPLed software, but still make a profit from proprietary software.