On Thu, Dec 19, 2002 at 10:59:24AM -0800, Andy Ross wrote:
> magenta wrote:
> > You don't understand how patents work, do you? All of those people
> > (except OpenIL, anyway) have licensed the algorithm itself. The
> > algorithm is freely-available (it's even part of the patent
> > documents). The problem is that S3 haven't released the patent to the
> > public domain, and so they can sue whomever they want if they're using
> > the patent without an appropriate license.
> I believe the point was that since NVidia is distributing source code
> implementing S3TC with an unrestrictive licence, that they are just as
> vulnerable as DRI is. They might have a licence for their own use of
> the algorithm, but they can't transfer that licence to the rest of the
But they're not transferring the license to others, they're just providing
a reference implementation. nVidia themselves wouldn't be sued for it, but
someone releasing new software using that implementation could be. It's
the same situation that a number of mp3 encoders were in a couple years
ago; Fraunhofer released a reference implementation for ISO specification
purposes, and then they turned around and sued everyone who used that
reference implementation in their own encoder.
> This tends to imply to my non-lawyer eyes that the S3TC patent is very
> unlikely to be strongly enforced. If VIA wants to sue someone,
> they'll sue the entity with assets first. Or maybe they *have* made
> such a broad licence grant to NVidia, allowing them to redistribute
> the patent licence free of charge. In which case DRI can just include
> the S3TC code and use it under the NVidia licence. Allowing one party
> to redistribute patent rights but not another is hardly a "reasonable
> and nondiscriminatory" licence.
But there's nothing about patents which requires them to be under a
reasonable or nondiscriminatory license.
> Either way, DRI looks safe to me. And remember that this isn't a DMCA
> violation, just a patent issue. No one is going to jail, and it would
> be (non-legal advice here!) extraordinarily difficult to prove any
> actual damages. And there is no one involved with DRI with assets to
> pay such an award anyway. Really, the worst that can happen is that
> you will be forced to take the code out.
Good point, in theory. In practice, see how Fraunhofer handled their
compression patent. Didn't they sue a lot of the free encoder makers for
damages based on the spurious claim that they were "funded by banner ads?"
(Not that DRI has banner ads anywhere, but it does/did have funding from
third-party sources, and a particularly twisted lawyer could claim that the
work itself is a form of funding...)