Originally posted by Overmind:
Lets look at this patent from this point of view: Although OpenGL used to be an open standard, now anyone who wants to implement it has to pay royality fees.
This has always been true. OpenGL is an Open standard because it is ratified by the ARB and then the specifications are made available to anyone. You can walk into any bookshop and buy them, and even download them. The extensions are ALL public if any vendor expects them to be used.
Paying for implementation is not uncommon; look at S3TC. It has not stopped S3TC becoming a defacto standard texture compression technique that graphics card manufacturers have to pay to implement it in hardware or software.
And what do you pay it for? You don’t use any of SGIs inventions, you just implement something yourself that happens to solve the same problem that one of SGIs inventions solve.
Yes and if you invented sucking dust into a pillow using a fan a few years back, you’d be sued by the people who were making vacuum cleaners. The whole point of patents is to secure the exclusive rights to an invention, which hopefully you invented.
What a lot of people fail to understand is that “obviousness” is no valid reason to deny a patent.
Patenting obvious things stands as one of the very tried and true things which makes patents necessary; if an inventor has a unique idea, and there is no prior art demonstrable, then a patent secures the right for the inventor to exclusively market that idea.
Isn’t lighting a room by heating something OBVIOUS? But isn’t doing it with wire in a glass gas chamber a unique solution?
The patent rewards the inventor with those exclusive rights, and it protects inventors from being destroyed by larger market forces (for instance if you invented some compression scheme that Microsoft later “borrowed”, you could make them pay you for it).
When this is abused - enforcing LZW licensing, etc. 10 years after widespread use, those stupid JPEG patents etc. - it is usually because the people who hold the patent, not usually the original inventors, are unscrupulous and greedy.
The original patents are still valid, LZW is an inherently patentable thing, the things in the JPEG patents are also very valid ideas put down on paper.
Enforcing them once they’re a worldwide standard after you let them stagnate in your filing cabinet, and only resurrecting them after a buyout, that’s not a flaw in patent law or the patent system, but in capitalism.
But abuse is not “patenting something that nobody had the foresight to implement before”.
If that were so, patents would be worthless.
So. Less of the “but floating point buffers and textures are so obvious!” - if it were that obvious someone on this forum would have patented it before SGI, or implemented it before SGI patented it, and would be rich from the licensing fees right now.
Don’t get bitter just because you didn’t. You know a lot of perfectly valid money-making inventions are lost to inventors simply because they stumbled at the first hurdle by thinking it was too obvious to patent. 10 years later someone else patents it, makes a fortune, and they kick themselves for not having done it.
I guess it doesn’t help most inventors are scared of being rejected, or too “open source” to consider it a valid way to protect their idea (not only to make money from, but the whole point of patents; to prevent market forces from exploiting it beyond the wishes of the inventor).
SGI may have patented floating point buffers and textures in order to stop someone else from patenting it with a much more restrictive licensing scheme.