That anti-patent pamphlet I mentioned

Arnoud Galactus Engelfriet galactus at
Wed Dec 11 12:06:56 UTC 2002

Xavi Drudis Ferran wrote:
> El Tue, Dec 10, 2002 at 11:49:29AM +0100, Arnoud Galactus Engelfriet deia:
> > To me, "MPEG patent" is shorthand for "patent on a particular
> > technical aspect of an implementation of the MPEG standard".
> > And no, it doesn't matter whether that implementation involves
> > software, hardware or a combination of both.
> I agrre it doesn't matter, it's still a software patent impeding 
> the creation of logical works (embodied in texts, magnetic disks,
> chips or a mixture of those)


> > The patents do not cover the standard itself, but only
> > implementations of the standard. You can copy the standard as much as
> > you want (subject to copyright restrictions of course) and distribute
> > information in the standard to everyone. But as soon as you start
> > implementing the standard, your implementation will infringe on some
> > patents. And for particular implementations there might also be
> > patents which you can work around by choosing a different
> > implementation.
> That's like saying the patent does not cover the invention, 
> you can photocopy the patent description all you want. Covering 
> any implementation of a standard means covering the standard. 

Yes. But I think it is important to make a distinction between the
information and machines built according to the information.

> But in the case of software you cannot longer distinguish 
> the standard from its implementation. Many standards have a 
> reference implementation, just because software is the most 
> detailes description of itself, and a detailed standard should 
> include software. 
> Therefore, patents on software prevent the dissemination of 
> the standard.

You can still distribute the textual description of the standard.
This does lead to absurd situations, I'll give you that. Just like
with the U.S. crypto laws, where you can safely export a printed
version of a computer program but not the same program on a record

> > I don't understand this. Are you saying that patents on hardware
> > implementations of MPEG should also not be permitted?
> Exactly, since hardware implementations of MPEG don't disclose new
> insights into the uses of forces of nature... 

I don't know that. Manipulating EM signals seems like using forces
of nature in a controllable manner. 

> see Dispositionsprogramm.

You're citing overturned law. This view on patentability has been
abandoned by the German Supreme Court.

> And if they do, they might be much more general than MPEG, possibly,
> and nobody would so restrict the claims. 

Nobody ever restricts his claims to MPEG. You might have a patent on
some signal modification technique, and if the technique in question
is present in the MPEG standard, an MPEG-conformant implementation
infringes on the patent. But also other implementations, and maybe
even according to totally different standards can infringe.

> > The counter argument would be that without the prospect of using
> > patents to get revenue from MPEG 4 implementers, the MPEG 4 drafters
> > would not have made the investments to develop the standard in the
> > first place. My company certainly wouldn't have.
> Some other would. All economic studies show the incentives are there. 

Not if there isn't a way to recover the investments. You can
do that with NDAs too, but that doesn't help public standards.

> The strong incentive of a patent can only be justified for very 
> expensive research invoving experiments with expensive equipment 
> in laboratories, clinical trials, etc. 

This is exactly what's involved when doing signal processing. You
need testing, measuring, prototype chip development, more testing,
experiments with human listeners/viewers and so on.

Kind regards,

Arnoud Engelfriet

Arnoud Engelfriet, Dutch patent attorney - Speaking only for myself
Patents, copyright and IPR explained for techies:

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