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FreeType Project Cheers TrueType Patent Expiration 203

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the just-wait-it-out-i-guess dept.
FlorianMueller writes "The FreeType project celebrates the expiration of Apple's TrueType bytecode patents. The open source font rendering engine now has the bytecode technology enabled by default. The relevant code existed for some time, but the project felt forced to disable it and advise everyone not to use it due to patent encumbrance. The 20-year maximum of validity of software patents is long, but sometimes the stuff that becomes available is still useful. The Unisys GIF patent was an example. And anything open-sourced 20 years ago would also be patent-free by now (except for the code that has since been added)."
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FreeType Project Cheers TrueType Patent Expiration

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, 2010 @11:55AM (#32951878)

    No, that makes this a worthy patent, like the RSA patent. All those other patents that can be easily worked around, those are the bad patents.

  • by marga (455344) on Monday July 19, 2010 @12:01PM (#32951948)

    The statement above makes me worried because it suggests that the Open Source Community could not find their way around these patents for two decades! Think about it....20 years!

    That is not what the article says. What it says is that the patent was filed 20 years ago, and that the freetype library included the code that infringed on that patent "for some time".

    What would "find a way around these patents" be? With software patents, that patent a "method" of doing something, it's quite hard to be able to find a way around them. Say Microsoft decided to enforce their double-click patent, how would you find a way around it? Basically, no other software would be able to use the double click input method without paying Microsoft for a patent license.

    The EFF fights against many of the enforced software patents, trying to prove that there was prior art and that the patent was actually invalid when it was granted. If the patent was actually valid, there's not much you could do.

    That's how it is, that's why we hate software patents.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, 2010 @12:15PM (#32952136)

    Slashdot really needs a moderation score of "-1 Incoherent"

  • by Hatta (162192) on Monday July 19, 2010 @12:19PM (#32952200) Journal

    You can patent anything you can get a patent clerk to sign off on. At which point the only recourse the public has is to take you to court. That's well beyond the resources of a project like FreeType. Just because the patent is technically invalid doesn't mean they can't make your life hell for infringing on it.

  • by tepples (727027) <tepples@gmaiBLUEl.com minus berry> on Monday July 19, 2010 @12:25PM (#32952280) Homepage Journal

    Sure, there was a way around the patents: be incompatible with TrueType.

    But then how would you get the major foundries on board without being compatible with the two major desktop PC operating systems?

  • by mikael_j (106439) on Monday July 19, 2010 @12:30PM (#32952346)

    I think the problem is that the wrong examiners handle some obvious patents. Something that may be obvious to a software developer may not be obvious to someone with only a degree in chemistry and a single undergrad programming course (and vice versa) and once a patent has been granted it's a pain in the ass to get rid of it even if there is prior art so everyone just kind of seems to hope that those who get such patents granted realize that they'd be useless in a serious legal battle (against someone with the resources to find the prior art or demonstrate how the patent would be obvious to anyone in the field).

  • Work around (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tepples (727027) <tepples@gmaiBLUEl.com minus berry> on Monday July 19, 2010 @12:49PM (#32952642) Homepage Journal

    Patents used to last 17 years after issue. But certain patent owners would employ dirty tricks to keep a patent in the "pending" state (filed but not issued). Now they last 20 years after filing, with an available 5-year extension for certain health care products to compensate for delays in getting the FDA's marketing approval. This greatly reduced the available techniques to keep a patent below water, though nonpracticing entities have discovered a few that still work.

    U.S. copyright is longer because a copyright is far easier to work around than a patent is to invent around. The methods used in a computer program cannot be copyrighted (17 USC 102(b)). Only the expression can, and the key case for that was CA v. Altai. Names of commands were ruled uncopyrightable in Lotus v. Borland, allowing look-alikes and work-alikes of office applications such as OpenOffice.org. But two disturbing copyright interpretations remain: the uncertainty in the scope of copyright in video game scenarios (Atari v. Philips ruled for wide copyright; Capcom v. Data East ruled for narrow), and the possibility of accidentally infringing the copyright in a sequence of musical notes that someone else happened to claim first (Bright Tunes v. Harrisongs).

  • by vlm (69642) on Monday July 19, 2010 @01:26PM (#32953138)

    Sure, drug companies are going to have trouble marketing medi-pops, but if you are actually worried about the legal risks you would take by making your own, you have gone off the deep end.

    But thats the whole point. I'm not worried about the legal risks of making my own, but the medical risks of DIY. Obviously aspirin coated in a buffering compound would be a dumb idea to grind and mix. And there are probably medications out there that oxidize so fast, or are insoluble outside of an acidic stomach acid solution that you shouldn't do this. Most liquids, I would guess, should be fine. But what about liq amoxicillin? Who knows? The whole point is the legal risks of drug companies marketing medi-pops is what causes the somewhat unknown medical risks of DIY medi-pops. Its worth worrying about if something this blindingly obvious can cause a problem.

    Rather than a made up example of patenting the wheel, I provide a real world example of how the broken patent system results in a net loss to society. TrollFlame the "patent the wheel" guy, not me.

  • by maxwell demon (590494) on Monday July 19, 2010 @01:28PM (#32953186) Journal

    Well, it's simple: It gives good results if the designer of the font put considerable work into it (and the software correctly interprets it, but I assume that's the case). It gives terrible results if the font designer didn't. Now if it looks bad for free fonts, then I can imagine several possible causes:

    • There are simply no good font designers making free fonts. If that is the case, the patent expiring will not help.
    • The designers of free fonts didn't consider it worthwhile to put work in it because it was ignored by free software anyway. In that case the patent expiration will help, because now it will become worthwhile to them.
    • Or maybe it's just boring to do that specific work, and therefore few designers of free fonts do it (similar to the fact that often free software projects are badly documented). In that case the expired patent might have an effect, because the font designers don't have the patent excuse any more.
    • Finally I also could imagine that the patent also prevented free software from creating properly hinted fonts. In that case, again the expiring of the patent will probably help.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, 2010 @02:54PM (#32954200)

    If Freetype was under GPL3, however, this would still not be violation of their patents because they are the owner. Likewise, any GPL product that wants to include the patent would be allowed also, since the GPL3 license says that.

  • by TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) on Monday July 19, 2010 @04:18PM (#32955596)
    The real problem is that it cost so much to *challenge* a patent on any grounds, and that at the end of the day, a patent attorney/judge decides what "obvious" is. Just a standard "do I infringe" from a attorney can cost $20K, and unlike an engineers report, it can be completely wrong and its not the attorneys problem or fault.

    Now add the fact the groups like MPEG-LA have 1000s of patents, even small costs become massive.

    The current system is self serving. Its serving lawyers under the pretense of protecting inventors.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, 2010 @05:27PM (#32956636)

    Thanks to the free market, there would be no incentive for someone with such a patent to just sit on it for a number of years, unless they also held (and licensed) a patent for "mammalian apparatus of equine variety that facilitates locomotion"...

    First, patents indicate the lack of a free market. Whether they are good or bad is a separate point. However, they do not exist in a free market. In a market, yes. In a free market, no. Second, there are plenty of reasons to sit on a patent.

    1) It prevents competition with your "Just Carry The Shit (TM)" business model (Patent #285, 10yrs remaining)

    2) You exploit the highest value/profit low hanging fruit and ignore other ecological niches (moving grain, yes - grinding grain, no)

    3) There may be no correlation between the patent holders and those with the know how to exlpoit it

    Patents are only there to prevent the sort of "clandestine creativity" that surrounds an expensive project that is faced with the very real threat that it will be stolen right out from under the inventors.

    No. Are you fucked in the head? This is the only purpose? Independent or parelled development would be OK (less 'first to file'). As would reverse engineering be OK. Many obvious "inventions" would not get protection. Further, the protection could be a much smaller window of time as once the product is on the market, the cat is out of the bag. I think not only did you fail to find the "only reason" I doubt you found one of the top five. Lastly, patents should have mandatory licensing much like a song on the radio. The only option should be to license for less or make some persuasive argument for why "one click" anything is worth more than $0.0000001/click.

  • by TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @04:49AM (#32961366)
    Having worked in a big corporation, try to do *anything* without the express approval of the legal department.

    Laws are written in a way where we are told we can't understand them, and must seek "legal advice" at every turn. Unlike real professionals, there is nothing wrong --legally-- with bad legal advice or incompetence, you get to stay a lawyer. Just see how long an engineer stays an engineer when they get things wrong, like a bridge wasn't strong enough.

    I have known too many lawyers. All they care about is "due process", which is legaleses (why does that word even exist) for "lots of billable hours".

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."

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