We need a countdown
Posted Sep 12, 2006 3:13 UTC (Tue) by roelofs
In reply to: We need a countdown
Parent article: SanDisk faces MP3 licence dispute (BBC)
Take the Unisys patent and the whole libgif => libungif problem. The patent expired in the US, but it was still thought to be in effect in a couple of countries.... But that was several years ago now and I know I still have libungif on my machine and I'll bet everyone reading this does also. rpmfind no longer even goes back far enough to find a copy of libgif.
That's not a clean example insofar as IBM managed to patent the same thing. Yes, yes, we all know you can't patent the same thing, but the examiners didn't notice, and are you going to pony up the couple of megabucks should IBM suffer a change in management and decide to get feisty? IIRC, there was some complication over who filed first; for all I know, IBM owned the real patent and let Unisys take the heat in exchange for some of the cash. Unlikely, yes, but pretty much any level of patent risk is too much if you're a FLOSS developer. And IBM's beneficence never extended far enough to clarify their opinion on the matter.
Anyway, the point is that IBM's version issued a few years later than Unisys's, so there's this ongoing gray area that may actually extend to the present day. (1989 sort of runs in mind as the year of issuance, but I'd have to go look it up to be sure. Check the comp.compression FAQ if you're curious.)
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