This patent could have big implications for data storage encryption
Microsoft got a controversial patent about data compression technology that could endanger open source software.
However, the inventor of the technology fears his creation will become less useful after Microsoft secures the rights to his design.
Software patents raise a lot of problems because they look like abstractions. The patent office is supposed to require that a patent be “new, useful and non-obvious”. But what’s new in the software?
Patents have a long history of obstacles
Patents are a strange thing to get excited about. They are one of the few types of government imposed monopolies that people are okay with.
It is generally accepted that patents provide an incentive for innovation and that occasional instances of patent abuse are worth tolerating.
According to Microsoft,
This rANS variant is [for example] used in JPEG XL, which is almost finished (frozen bitstream) and [is] supporting, it offers ~3x better compression than JPEG at similar computational cost, compatibility with JPEG, progressive decoding, missing features such as HDR, alpha, lossless, animations. There is a large team, mainly from Google, behind this. After almost 30 years, it should finally replace the 1992 JPEG for photos and images, starting with Chrome, Android.
The problem is that there is no standard terminology for software patents. A patent does not necessarily reflect the developer’s experience of “inventing” something new, but generally reflects the idea of implementing an existing concept in a new way.
In other words, if you’re doing something new, your project could fall under another company’s patent without you even knowing it.
Additionally, given Microsoft’s patent history,
Microsoft has a long history of patent assault on FOSS; Not too long ago they were rattling Linux users and Android distributors about patents, and we’d expect more criticism to come on this patent and others.
What do you think of software patents? Let us know in the comment section below.
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