Potential Patent Infringement Threatens To Doom Highly Anticipated Open Source Project

from the promoting-science-through-patents dept

John Carmack, the guy behind the Doom series of games, has alway been a supporter of open source software. He has in the past released the source code for the original Doom and Quake to the open source community. This open access has led to Doom and Quake being used in a variety of ways and has allowed numerous people to learn how to make games. It has really come as no surprise that Carmack has decided to open source the code for Doom 3. What is surprising though is that move has been held up due to an old patent infringement suit.

Back in 1999, Creative Labs filed for a software patent for a 3D shading technique called “depth fail”. When Carmack was developing Doom 3, he independently invented the same technique. This led to some patent troubles that eventually ended with Carmack licensing the patent from Creative Labs. This old wound is now causing pain for Carmack once more. Because his lawyers are not willing to risk another lawsuit over the patent, Carmack is being forced to code a new solution to the 3D shading technique in order to work around the patent. This is holding up the the release of the code to the open source community.

Although the patent issues are a pain in the butt for those in the open source community, one nice thing is knowing exactly what patents you are infringing and exactly what areas of your software need to be reworked to avoid the problem. This is something that other patent holders are not willing to grant to those they are threatening, Take for example Microsoft and its claims that Linux and Android violate its patents. If MIcrosoft would just tell the open source community what it thinks is infringing, then the developers could just work around those issues. Instead, Microsoft insists on using its patents as a weapon to threaten companies into licensing deals. This behavior is well outside the bounds of the US Constitution’s clause to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts”.

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Companies: creative labs

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Comments on “Potential Patent Infringement Threatens To Doom Highly Anticipated Open Source Project”

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Mike42 (profile) says:

Re: Late in the game...

Actually, all he did was change it back to the slightly less efficient way to calculate volume shadows, which eats an extra clock cycle. Thus, a 6 line change.
John WAS a staunch supporter of open source, and didn’t patent any of his techniques, because he believed in the golden rule: “I’d be really pissed if I couldn’t do something in code because of a patent.” (paraphrased from “Masters of Doom” and filtered through my faulty organic memory.)
I’ve been noticing some non-open vibes coming from him since ID was bought out. (Endorsing DirectX over OpenGL is one.) I’d be interested to know if he’s intending to open-source Tech 5 whenever he develops Tech 6.

Paul says:

As a start up you have limited chances....

I found an article here advizeing on how to avoid patent infrigment.
Nice read, but the conclusion I get from this is that a 2,4 or10 man team these days stand no change on creating something new without a lot of cash to begin with or luck.
The amount of effort to try to create something that is not patent Infringeing is more than it will take to inplemet the idea.
In the end I don’t think you can avoid patents so I guess for all developers out there just go and work for big corporations and propose your ideas to them in the end you will get a 5% salary raise and the CEO will get a 5% increase in stock value, I think its a fare thing to do.

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