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".


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 1:25pm

    Unless

    "This behavior is well outside the bounds of the US Constitution's clause to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts"."
    Unless, of course, one counts the art of pointless lawyering.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 1:43pm

    If MIcrosoft would just tell the open source community what it thinks is infringing, then the developers could just work around those issues.

    But then that kills the new buisness model. They need someone to sue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Mike42 (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 1:43pm

    Late in the game...

    It's known as, "Carmack's Reverse", and he already fixed it. John "added four lines and changed two" according to twitter. He also said something about 6 lines of code being a pathetic excuse for a patent.

    Still waiting for the release...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Mike42 (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 1:45pm

    Re: Late in the game...

    It does make one wonder, "what if John had patented the 3D engine?"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 1:47pm

    Re: Re: Late in the game...

    Then obviously other software developers would have routed around the patent by creating an entirely NEW THIRD DIMENSION! Patents promoting progress FTW!!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    E. Zachary Knight (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 1:52pm

    Re: Late in the game...

    That is good to hear. Based on the tweet history though, he is still waiting for confirmation from his attorneys on the changes.

    Not surprised that he only have to change a total of 6 lines of code to bypass a software patent.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 2:03pm

    Re: Unless

    Make no mistake, being a good/great lawyer is an art. That's why there's tons of hack lawyers and so very few good ones.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 2:06pm

    Re: Re: Unless

    True, but one could argue that being a good/great anything is an art...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 2:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Late in the game...

    "an entirely NEW THIRD DIMENSION"

    im pretty sure that is what OOTB comes out of

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    vegetaman (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 3:43pm

    See, the patent system encourages innovation!

    See, the patent system does encourage innovation!

    Now John Carmack has to innovate a way to get around a patent somebody else filed on an idea he managed to independently discover around the same time.

    /sarcasm

    (Seriously though, John Carmack is awesome in my book. Open source software all the way!)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    fb39ca4, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 6:00pm

    source code

    I thought source code is an educational description, and not infringing anyways. See LAME mp3 encoder if you aren't sure what I am talking about.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 10:51pm

    Re: Re: Re: Late in the game...

    "an entirely NEW THIRD DIMENSION!"

    What about we get more innovative here and create a fourth, a fifth, and a sixth dimension!!!

    See, patents promote the progress by encouraging people to create innovative work arounds!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    monkyyy, Nov 22nd, 2011 @ 12:31am

    Re: Unless

    i think its more of a sport then an art

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Paul, Nov 22nd, 2011 @ 2:32am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Mike42 (profile), Nov 22nd, 2011 @ 4:51am

    Re: Re: 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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    ahow628 (profile), Nov 22nd, 2011 @ 4:59am

    Fail is right.

    If it is called "depth fail", is it really 3D?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Mike42 (profile), Nov 22nd, 2011 @ 2:50pm

    Source Code Released!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    hmm (profile), Nov 22nd, 2011 @ 2:53pm

    Re: Unless

    Unless, of course, one counts the art of pointless lawyering

    it clearly says **USEFUL** arts.

    Even a lawyer couldn't stretch the truth that he's useful that far......

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    hmm (profile), Nov 22nd, 2011 @ 2:55pm

    Why

    Why hasn't creative labs died already?

    pointless, useless out-of-date products that pretty much no one wants or cares about anymore.

    SOMEONE must be keeping this failed business afloat

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Henry, Nov 24th, 2011 @ 8:43pm

    Patent infringement occurs across all industries and all sectors of the economy. There are no Patent Police, so fighting patent infringement is the job of the company that owns the patent.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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