MP3 patent issues?

Corey Edwards tensai at zmonkey.org
Wed Aug 3 21:15:25 MDT 2005


On Wed, 2005-08-03 at 15:51 -0600, Andrew Hunter wrote:
> Forgive my lack of links... I am dredging this up from deep down in
> the brain.  As I understand, there is a patent on MP3.  The folks that
> hold the patent never enforced it, with the exception of a
> half-hearted, too-little-too-late attempt to profit from the explosive
> proliferation of the format.  In many cases, courts will not allow an
> entity to suddenly start crying foul if they ignored patent violations
> for a prolonged period. So, in the case of MP3, it is highly unlikely
> that a legal challenge by the patent holders would succeed.  It would
> be a case of giving the appearance of offering an item for free and
> then suddenly slapping down fees.

That's completely allowed by our patent system. Perhaps you're thinking
of trademarks which have to always be vigorously enforced or they risk
being lost. Patents, like copyrights, are in no such danger.

A few years ago, Rambus lost a few patents on RAM because they had
submitted them to a standards body but failed to disclose that they were
patent-encumbered. Because of a previous agreement with the standards
body promising disclosure, they were force to relinquish their patent
rights. By not disclosing them, they effectively granted a patent
license. That's quite a bit different than simply not enforcing a
patent.

> As mentioned elsewhere, the only possible target of such a (probably
> DOA) lawsuit would be the developer, not the user.

The question is, are you willing to risk it in court. Even if you were
vindicated, I doubt you really have the time or money to waste on a
trial. I'm sure that's the reason so many P2P lawsuits (all?) are
settled so quickly.

Corey

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