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Microsoft Claims IP Rights on Portions of OpenGL 369

Posted by chrisd
from the thanks-sgi dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Minutes of the latest OpenGL ARB meeting reveal that Microsoft is claiming IP over the vertex and fragment extensions, both critical for exposing the capabilities of modern graphics hardware. The minutes also include an update on the progress of OpenGL 2.0." The question is, what does this mean for Linux -- how will Microsoft exercise their "rights"?
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Microsoft Claims IP Rights on Portions of OpenGL

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  • by edrugtrader (442064) on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @11:11PM (#3854148) Homepage
    1 update pending

    Would you like to install MSClosedGL 1.0?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @11:14PM (#3854172)
      It's an ARB requirement for any participant to state that they might have IP involved in a particular feature or extension. Try checking out previous ARB minutes where nVidia, ATI, and other companies have made statements about their own IP and possible conflicts. This is a non-issue.
      • Old news too (Score:2, Informative)

        by mati (114154)
        Aye, and it's old news [opengl.org] too (March).
        NVIDIA has signed an ARB Contributor License for the NV_vertex_program extension; copies were distributed to interested parties. For questions, contact Stephen Pettigrew, spettigrew 'at' nvidia.com Microsoft wanted to alleviate concerns about their statement last week regarding possible claims on vertex program IP. Dave Aronson apologized for the perception that they aren't acting in good faith. They are trying to follow ARB regulations about stating IP as much as possible. When a vote was imminent, they reviewed and felt that they had patents or patents pending covering vertex programming. They do plan on coming up with licensing terms, and have set a hard deadline for themselves of 2 weeks before the June ARB meeting.
    • wow... bashing microsoft is now considered flamebait?! time to do some regex's on the user list and get rid of all the .microsoft.com signups...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @11:12PM (#3854159)
    Of course and they have the "right". They bought a whole lot of IP from SGI a few months ago.
    Check it out here:
    http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=02/01/16/182425 6&mode=thread&tid=152 [slashdot.org]
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @11:53PM (#3854358)
      While i believe that Microsoft is not doing anything relevant to the current slashdot that is not completely within their rights, it is very important to remember:

      "Microsoft has every right to do whatever they want" is currently an incorrect statement. Microsoft is currently legally determined to be an illegal monopoly. That means that until government correction, which has not happened yet, Microsoft's rights do not currently encompass "whatever they want". There are a number of things they do not have the right to do.

      Of course, the things that they have no right to do because they are legally a monopoly are not relevant to the current discussion, like i said, but please keep that in mind-- they currently DO NOT have the right to act in an anticompetitive manner, in certain ways under certain circumstances that would be legal for an other company.

      That said, the current article is just stupid. It would be interesting to have a conversation on the subject of exactly how much of OpenGL is subject to destruction by a malicious entity buying up and then denying public use of OpenGL-related patents, but the incendentiary attack in the slashdot blurb is totally unwarranted as MS has not given any indication of doing anything yet. The bit about MS buying bits of OpenGL is important but we've already had a slashdot thread on that somewhere.
  • by TechnoVooDooDaddy (470187) on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @11:12PM (#3854160) Homepage
    and they like to take credit for a lot of stuff that they've been associated with.. Everyone does it from IBM to Sun to Starbucks..

    the more times the word Microsoft appears in front of your eyes, the bigger the smil gets on their PR dept faces.. Slashdot is probably one of Microsofts biggest PR machines. Remember, there is no bad publicity..

    • by PhxBlue (562201) on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @11:19PM (#3854196) Homepage Journal

      the more times the word Microsoft appears in front of your eyes, the bigger the smil gets on their PR dept faces.. Slashdot is probably one of Microsofts biggest PR machines. Remember, there is no bad publicity..

      This is only true to a point. It depends on what the target of the spotlight (Company A) has done to earn the publicity: I don't think Michael Jackson was too happy about the publicity he received when he was being accused of molesting children, after all. For a corporation, publicity is only good when it leads to sales--and let's face it, SlashDot is hardly MicroSoft's target market for OSS.

      Besides, what does a monopoly need with publicity? Once you hit that height, publicity is more likely to be bad than good.

  • Bash bash bash (Score:3, Informative)

    by ObviousGuy (578567) <ObviousGuy@hotmail.com> on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @11:14PM (#3854169) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft believes they have patent rights relating to the ARB_vertex_program extension. They did not contribute to the extension, but are trying to be upfront about it.
    • Re:Bash bash bash (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Zeinfeld (263942) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:26AM (#3854636) Homepage
      Microsoft believes they have patent rights relating to the ARB_vertex_program extension. They did not contribute to the extension, but are trying to be upfront about it.

      In other words, OpenGL can function without the extension. This is not a blocking patent. If the group cannot get to satisfactory license terms the extension will be dropped.

      This type of thing happens in all standards groups from time to time. And the right outcome is not always the same.

      This is not Rambus style Patent smurfing where you patent an idea, propose it in a standards group and then at the last minute demand royalties. Nor is it patent trolling where someone looks at what a working group has done and makes a perjured patent application to grab the rights to the ideas.

      The group itself is not getting up in a stew about the issue so it is unlikely that this is going to be a major problem. In cases of this sort the company with the IP works out whether they get their best return from making the IP free or trying to charge. In all but a handfull of cases the result is some sort of effectively free license.

      There are cases in which people have IP that they think is valuable and they are not willing to license. But these are actually quite rare since most patents can be circumvented.

      In this case it appears that Microsoft is offering an essentially free license. However making sure that things stay free means that unilateral disarmament is not the best policy. That is what the GPL is all about.

      So in comon with most companies Microsoft are offering the technology on reciprocal license terms. In other words they will allow folk to use their tecnology if others provide access to theirs.

      The minutes do not make it clear whether the terms are RAND and zero license fee or RAND with a charge. From the discussion it would appear to me that either the license is expected to be zero cost, or it is a group where there are lots of folk looking to profit from their patent portfolio.

      So the huffing and puffing appears to me to be somewhat overdone.

      • Huh ? (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        The idea of OpenGL 2 is to be backwards compatible by reimplementing the old (1.3) fixed vertex processing model, as a vertex program on the new vertex shader hardware. Same thing with blending, texture lookup etc versus fragment shaders. If you need to drop the shaders, this all falls apart, and GL2 becomes merely an exercise in reintegrating a bit of the extension-jungle into the core -- that'd be OpenGL 1.4 or something, not 2.0.

  • I wonder if this has anything to do with the IP (patents, designs, etc) Microsoft recently bought from Silicon Graphics, Inc (SGI)...
  • by handsomepete (561396) on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @11:17PM (#3854188) Journal
    I doubt they'll really care too much about Linux OpenGL (for now) because quite honestly it's not necessary to attack it on that front. That would be a little too obviously vindictive, even for Microsoft. I think the more likely conclusion is that they'll use it to leverage their stranglehold on the DirectX/Windows combo to make it not only the standard, but the only option. Once gaming on Windows is restricted to DirectX, then OpenGL will survive solely on Linux (if it survives at all).
    • by Lord Omlette (124579) on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @11:26PM (#3854233) Homepage
      OpenGL will die on Windows at ~the same time as John Carmack dies.
      • You mods laugh but it's true, Carmack's engines power enough games to keep openGL alive and kicking. Without him we'd probably be living in a D3D only world on the desktop.
        • Without him we'd probably be living in a D3D only world on the desktop.

          True for games but all serious 3D modelling packages use OpenGL - partly because D3D is platform specific but mostly because it is inadequate for anything but games.
      • OpenGL will die on Windows at the same time as John Carmack dies.

        I now regret killing him so many times in Doom II. I guess I've done my part to support the monopoly...
    • by MissMyNewton (521420) on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @11:38PM (#3854283)


      then OpenGL will survive solely on Linux (if it survives at all).

      I'm gonna guess that there are now more MacOSX *desktop* users than Linux *desktop* users, so this could be a shot at Apple, who is moving their gorgeous-but-heavy Aqua interface to OpenGL in Jaguar for the purposes of hardware acceleration...

      I still don't think MS cares a whit about Linux...yet.

      BTW, (responding to a different post), I don't think John Carmack is a fool - if the OpenGL lake dries up, I'd guess he'd go fishing elsewhere...

      • Oops. Forgot about Apple. Thanks for the reminder.

        "I still don't think MS cares a whit about Linux...yet"

        I totally agree with this. Most moves they make are not used to position themselves ahead of Linux. I don't think that they've got the foresight so start worrying about Linux desktops at this point. Besides, they're too busy making sure they own every single inch of the Windows desktop (Media Player, Passport, Internet Explorer, DirectX, etc.) to actively disrupt other operating systems at this (software) level. At least for now.


      • Don't forget that Apple and MS have a patent cross-license agreement that covers everything MS bought from SGI.

        -jcr
    • OpenGL on OSX (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      then OpenGL will survive solely on Linux (if it survives at all).
      and MacOSx.

      Check this out http://www.apple.com/opengl/ [apple.com]

      It's sort of fundamental to the way OSX does 3D.

      It's exactly this sort of crap that made me jump ship and buy a Mac in the first place. Of course Apple have been flexing their muscles a little too much lately too.
    • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @12:32AM (#3854473) Homepage Journal
      RAND licensing terms do not necessarily allow Open Source implementations. It sounds like they may be offering OpenGL a royalty-free cross-license, but the terms of another recent Microsoft standards-related license explicitly ruled out GPL and LGPL implementations. They won't accept anything that they can't embrace-and-extend.

      Bruce

      • by ejungle (398309) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:15AM (#3854748)

        Nearly 200 comments later, and you'd figure some people other than a few moderators would see the eloquence of this statement.

        When getting into a code-sharing agreement usually means somehow resolving the disparity between the terms of the licences. In a case such as this, the gap in the terms of use is enormous. This puts both parties on a very slippery slope legally.

        The unfortunate part of this situation is that one side has vast legal means at their disposal, and the other is a bunch of specialized industry companies with a bunch of hobbyists driving the consumer segment. In the case that Microsoft does manage to take control of OpenGL, some companies would file suit, some would pay their fees, and the Open Source community would be screwed.

        I'm not suggesting any conspiracy theory, just that Microsoft has made their "embrace and extend" policy for a reason: Because when they get their tentacles in somewhere, they are usually pretty sucessful turning the technology into something they can control.

        I don't think it will happen this time. I hope it doesn't happen this time. However, cross-licencing with Microsoft is like pulling down your pants before being bent over a table.

        Riding Bruce's coat-tails,
        -jungleboy

        • Let me see if I understand this correctly. Microsoft is offering to crosslicense it's technology so that others can use it, as long as others make their technology freely available to Microsoft. This is a much more permissive License than the GPL, where you have to make source to make the source to derivative works avalable under GPL, yet Microsoft are the ones being uncooperative.

          Do people here realize the irony that Microsoft licensing technology in such a way that it can't be used with the GPL is about as restrictive of a license as the GPL is to closed source?

          I don't think that Microsoft should be able to license things in such a way that the GPL is excluded because of Microsoft's dominant market share. BUt attacking a cross licening agreement that allows the free use of other people's technology be cause Microsoft may take technology and extend upon it is taking things a bit far. Extensions that purposly break standard implementations without significant benefit are a bad thing. But everyone hoarding their technology and refusing to let others use it is worse. Microsoft appears to be the good guys on this issue. Sorry if that upsets you.
          • by the gnat (153162) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @11:25AM (#3856965)
            Okay, I have two objections to this:

            - Under the GPL, if you use someone else's (GPL'd) work in your own, you must release it under the GPL. In the situation you propose, if you use Microsoft's work, Microsoft can take control of your derivative. How is that more permissive? There's no irony here- Microsoft would be limiting the conditions under which you may release your work. And they're doing so in a way that is at least as restrictive, if not more, than the GPL, but doesn't benefit anyone but MS. Besides, the GPL does make software freely available to Microsoft- they just have to follow certain rules.

            - There's room for interpretation on the issue of whether this is "Microsoft's technology". I assume SGI actually invented it; furthermore, the software implementation could be independent of the patent. The GPL forces you to release your code under the GPL if you incorporate GPL'd code into it. What we're talking about forces you to release your code under a non-GPL'd license if you use a certain abstract technological concept.

            I have no idea what Microsoft's plan is, and I think this story may be overblown. But for them to prohibit GPL-like licenses is certainly more restrictive than the GPL.
  • by Renraku (518261) on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @11:21PM (#3854205) Homepage
    As if it weren't bad enough with Microsoft owning the #1 gaming OS. They already own half of the graphics langage market with DirectX. They're trying their asses off to own the other part, OpenGL. Smart move for Microsoft, but when are they going to start deploying houses and hotels on DirectX / OpenGL? Imagine if DirectX or OpenGL cost money to use. Imagine paying for your Microsoft-licenced drivers.
  • Boy, I just flew in here, and boy, are my arms tired.

    [audience laughter]

    Thank you, thank you, you guys are so nice.

    The question is, what does this mean for Linux -- how will Microsoft exercise their "rights"?

    Oh, no doubt they're just being protective of their property and make sure that this aspect of the software ecosystem is managed responsibly and openly. I doubt they'll use this for leverage over independent vendors.

    [audience laughter]

    Thank you! I'm here all week!
    • If they start exercising many of the patent rights they bought from SGI, they will have to remove the Open from OpenGL. Hmmm, dosen't DirectGL have a nice ring to it?

      From my observations over the years, I think MS only finds things humorous when financial pain is present in their competitors.
  • by Dr. Awktagon (233360) on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @11:23PM (#3854218) Homepage

    Ahh, how appropriate, I was just going to make a post on the "donate to Gnome" thread about how this whole Mono thing is a disaster waiting to happen (i.e., Microsoft will activate the .NET "poison pill" as soon as Mono becomes a threat, through patents or other means, and Mono users will have no place to go but genuine .NET).

    Perhaps this OpenGL bit will blow over, or perhaps we should keep an eye on it as a sort of model for future Microsoft attacks on "open xyz".

    Let's check the link, there are some quotes:

    They're offering to license their IP under reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms; will license rights to the extent necessary, provided a reciprocal license is granted to MS. Granted on 1:1 basis for OpenGL 1.3, 1.4, and earlier versions.

    Ahh, there's the magic "reasonable" (to Microsoft) and "non-discriminatory" (except if you don't agree to the terms). How would this cross-licensing apply to implementations other than the official OpenGL?

    Microsoft suggests that other bodies have licensing terms that are more effective in a corporate sense, and we should look at adopting some of those terms.

    Uh huh..what does "more effective in a corporate sense" mean exactly....

    Well I don't know much about OpenGL licensing, or how much of this extension stuff is implemented in non-OpenGL implementations (like Mesa?) so I'll just watch and see what happens.

  • Yeah... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheDanish (576008) on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @11:25PM (#3854224) Journal
    They'll have patent rights over OpenGL, among other things. Eventually, The Onion's article will be true. Did anyone else think of this?

    http://www.theonion.com/onion3311/microsoftpatents .html

    It's not too far off.
  • Not just Linux... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zaren (204877) <holdthis@mail.com> on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @11:25PM (#3854227) Homepage Journal
    what about Apple? MacOS does a lot of things with OpenGL too...
  • It means nothing . (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Decado (207907) on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @11:29PM (#3854250)
    Read the bloody minutes, they arent demanding that OpenGL cease to exist, they are just declaring that they have related patents and as near as I could gather from the article they are being made available for use by OpenGL as long as the OpenGL people agree to allow Microsoft to use any OpenGL technology developed using them. It's a bit pre-emptive when we are hanging Microsoft just for having the patents, can we please use this effort on people who exploit their patents and not on those who simply posess them?
    • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @12:35AM (#3854488) Homepage Journal
      So, does everybody have to sign away their rights to MS just because MS might think they have a related patent?

      Bruce


      • Decando:
        ...as long as the OpenGL people agree to allow Microsoft to use any OpenGL technology developed using them...

        Bruce:
        So, does
        everybody have to sign away their rights to MS just because MS might think they have a related patent?

        I don't see why. *smile* To me it sounds like Microsoft would be satisfied if any OpenGL technology developed using their "Intelectual Property" was GPL'd.

        -- MarkusQ

        • by Cryptnotic (154382) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:27AM (#3854640) Homepage
          I don't see why. *smile* To me it sounds like Microsoft would be satisfied if any OpenGL technology developed using their "Intelectual Property" was GPL'd.

          You're being naive. Microsoft doesn't care who implements it. Microsoft can reimplement whatever it wants to. They have more than enough programmers to do so. What Microsoft wants is a free license to use OpenGL 2.0. This is very dangerous, since normally OpenGL implementations need to be certified by the OpenGL group. This certification costs money, which is why the Mesa 3D people weren't allowed to call themselves an OpenGL implementation. If Microsoft can say that their implementation is OpenGL 2.0 without any kind of certification, then their version would be the de facto OpenGL, regardless of what the standard is.

          If the OpenGL group blindly agrees to Microsoft's seemingly generous offer, the lawyers who make the decisions will hopefully explain that signing away liberties is not such a great idea.

    • by lpontiac (173839) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:45AM (#3854829)
      It's a bit pre-emptive when we are hanging Microsoft just for having the patents

      Not really. Microsoft has been convicted of anti-trust violations by a court of law. In case you didn't catch that, Microsoft has been convicted of anti-trust violations by a court of law. Just so that everyone is sure to see it:

      Microsoft has been convicted of anti-trust violations by a court of law.

      Integration across markets isn't safe when these guys are involved. Microsoft has demonstrated time and time again that when they have any sort of leverage, the rest of the market suffers.

      They didn't gain these patents in the course of research, they bought them from SGI for $62.5 million. [theregister.co.uk] Microsoft doesn't develop graphics hardware, so what could they have in mind for these patents that makes them worth $62.5 million?

      • Once a thieve, always a thieve, right?

        Dave
      • by t (8386)
        Microsoft doesn't develop graphics hardware, so what could they have in mind for these patents that makes them worth $62.5 million?
        Uhh... they do have this flagging product called the xbox you know. Maybe they have been so used to being the "batter" that when Nvidia made them the "catcher" they felt that $62.5mil was a small price to pay for dominance.
    • Microsoft may well be aiming to use this to exclude open source from the table--commercial vendors that are part of the consortium cross-license their patent portfolios related to OpenGL and Linux is out in the cold. That is, after all, what Microsoft really wants. They know they can beat down Apple and SGI, it's Linux they are afraid of.
  • by peterdaly (123554) <petedaly@ix.netc o m . com> on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @11:32PM (#3854260)
    Wouldn't it be interesting if Sony were to license the "Emotion Engine" video technologies for the desktop PC market? As of right now MS seems to have a monopoly on the 3D graphics technologies market.

    Sony is the only possible contender to come into my mind. Without competition, how soon until 3D graphics are only allowed to exist on Windows? Are we only one generation away from that? Does anyone other than Sony have a similar "mature" technology for 3D graphics, with the market clout to back it up?

    What incentive would Sony have you ask? Well, MS makes the X-Box, which is based on DirectX. Sony has an incentive in my mind to keep DirectX games from being written for any platform. This is not too far from reasons the PS2 Linux kit came out...to train developers. Sony could be the next competitor, the current being Sun, to step into the ring and throw off the gloves with Microsoft.

    -Pete
    • by Namarrgon (105036) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @12:08AM (#3854387) Homepage
      ? How do you figure MS has a monopoly on 3D graphics? They don't make any 3D hardware. DirectX is a Windows-only API, but you can also use the popular & platform-independant OpenGL API (yes, even on the Xbox, though you can thank nVidia for that).

      Pretty much all consumer-level hardware comes with both DirectX and OpenGL drivers, thanks mostly to id Software. Until recently, almost all professional-level hardware only came with OpenGL support. SGI are still in there, the Linux 3D scene is improving daily, and Apple are throwing ever more weight behind OpenGL too. 3D is hardly an MS-only game (at least until MS eliminates all other OS competitors completely).

      In fact, Sony is a very minor player. They have their own weirdo hardware (which is incompatible with all non-PS2 software), but what would they do with it? Stick it on a PCI card with OpenGL & DirectX drivers, just like nVidia, ATI, Matrox, 3dlabs etc etc? Invent their own peculiar API that no-one supports? What exactly are they supposed to do that isn't already being done by everyone else?

      • I have the understanding that Microsoft owns the OpenGL patents, and therefore has control over OpenGL hardware vendors and the API.

        Am I missing the boat?

        -Pete
    • As of right now MS seems to have a monopoly on the 3D graphics technologies market.

      Some [sgi.com] people [renderman.com] would [apple.com] disagree [nintendo.com].

      There is considerably more to the computing world than PCs. High-end 3D graphics don't get done on PCs, just the low-end stuff that makes it into games. Even here there's no monopoly - Sony has its take on gaming, as does Nintendo.

      If you're suggesting that Microsoft offers the dominant 3D API for Microsoft platforms, well then yes - it does. But then where's the surprise in that? Sony offer the dominant API for Sony platforms, and Nintendo offer the dominant API for Nintendo platforms.

      Don't be too quick to cry 'monopoly'. It devalues the term, and makes it lose impact for when it's really needed.

      Cheers,
      Ian

  • by tannhaus (152710)
    THIS is how microsoft operates. If they cannot "embrace and extend" they will litigate their way to victory. I'm really not surprised by this action at all. We already knew Microsoft was concerned about the competition linux might offer and it seemed like we were getting too much of a free ride.

    The only thing we can hope now is that the monopoly case will take a little bite out of Microsoft. Otherwise, this will continue to the point that releasing software or drivers for linux becomes a LIABILITY. At that point, no matter how much better the OS is, it is dead in the water.
  • Curious punctuation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Yankovic (97540) on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @11:34PM (#3854272)
    I'm a bit confused why chrisd put "rights" in the body in quotes. Either they bought the patent and have rights over the code and programming model, or the patent does not apply and they have no rights.
    • I put the quotes in because I find it interesting that they are asserting rights over something they did not write, nor can claim any code for. It smells like they are submarining a patent they bought from SGI, who in turn probably filed the patent as a submarine as well.

      chrisd

      • ---"I put the quotes in because I find it interesting that they are asserting rights over something they did not write, nor can claim any code for."

        That's IP for you. They bought the IP for OpenGL rights that SGI owned.

        ---"It smells like they are submarining a patent they bought from SGI, who in turn probably filed the patent as a submarine as well."

        You damn right they are. If I was Billy, I'd buy up every rendering engine to force everybody to use _MINE_. And that's exactly they plan to do. For example, if you're running WinXP, go download GLTron and play it. WHOOPS! MS didn't include OpenGL drivers.

        Simply, this is IE vs. Netscape all over again. Just a different terrain.

  • by gusnz (455113) on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @11:35PM (#3854273) Homepage
    Well the, shouldn't it be a simple case of renaming and/or reimplementing the extensions over which MS claims to have IP rights for the final OpenGL2.0 spec?

    As it is, the spec is still currently under work. If John Carmack (I suspect you're reading this) can use the new, shiny XYZ_vertex_program extension or simliar (which is of course very different to the Microsoft one) in Doom III, driver writers will naturally include it to make their cards run the Doom 3 engine, and we'll be home free.

    Of course, although it might not be part of the official 2.0 spec they'd be free to include the old extension too, at their call. So, everyone wins except Microsoft, which should please the Slashdotters greatly.

    In any case they've offered RAND licensing terms, so it doesn't look like they're out for blood this time. Since this whole article is based off a vaguely worded paragraph from the minutes of a meeting with no legal opinions offered, I somehow don't think that this will mean the death of OpenGL as we know it.
  • "They're offering to license their IP under reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms; will license rights to the extent necessary, provided a reciprocal license is granted to MS.
    Granted on 1:1 basis for OpenGL 1.3, 1.4, and earlier versions."
    (emphasis added)

    So, they want to trade this one piece of IP for many pieces currently belonging to other people? Sounds like a really sweet deal for them. I'm not sure whether to accuse them of being sneaky or just stand in awe that they actually do understand the potentially non-scarce nature of information.

    Does anyone who knows about how these comittees work want to comment on whether this is considered ethical? It would be better from an openness standpoint to have them just give it up, but reasonable licensing is better than having them try to exploit it after the standard is implemented (like happened with Rambus).

  • by Codeala (235477) on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @11:40PM (#3854293)
    This is their entire claim as recorded in the minute:
    Microsoft believes they have patent rights relating to the ARB_vertex_program extension.
    Not much to go on really. What is interesting is the members' reactions (especially NVIDIA's):
    IBM thinks it's premature to vote on this without seeing the MS license terms. NVIDIA wants to vote it in at this meeting. SGI thinks if we can't deal with IP claims, we might as well all go home.
    It seems crazy to "vote it in" (as in agreeing?) with so little information. Unless you are in really deep with MS ;-)
  • by 2starr (202647) on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @11:40PM (#3854294) Homepage
    I'm certainly not pro-Microsoft, but I don't see anyone asking the question of "are these claims valid"? If so, I think we should be wondering why Microsoft IP ended up in OpenGL implementations. I mean, it's fun to hate Microsoft and all, but if they did invent something, they should have some rights.

    So, before going much farther, I would like to see what exactly they're claiming they own and see if everyone agrees with that. If so, it should probably be seen by the OpenGL-gurus whether it's something that can be designed around. If not, <SLAP_ON_WRIST>shame on the OpenGL developers /designers for using non-open things!</SLAP_ON_WRIST>

    And -before I finish my rant- let that be a lesson to all of us to check twice before integrating some cool idea. Make sure you didn't hear it from someone who will say they own it later! (I don't know how this really happened. That may or may not be the scenario, but I've seen it happen that way before.)

    • by Citizen of Earth (569446) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @12:14AM (#3854408)
      I'm certainly not pro-Microsoft, but I don't see anyone asking the question of "are these claims valid"? If so, I think we should be wondering why Microsoft IP ended up in OpenGL implementations. I mean, it's fun to hate Microsoft and all, but if they did invent something, they should have some rights.

      You're not being cynical enough. Of course Microsoft didn't invent anything; they never have. They bought patents from SGI a few months ago for exactly this purpose: to eliminate OpenGL as a competitor to DirectX. Since SGI was a major contributor to OpenGL, one must wonder if the patents were really used and under what legal conditions and whether selling the patents to a third party doesn't also bind the third party to the conditions under which the patents were used in OpenGL.
    • There should be an open license that pre-dates the patent ownership by microsoft. under patent law, if you release a patent, it can't be later 'reclaimed'. under patent law, you must agressively defend a patent or you lose the rights to it. Microsoft bought something that was already lost by SGI as a protectable patent.
  • Familiar (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Brian_at_Work (590160)
    Does this seem a little like and old msg [slashdot.org] to any one else? "Perhaps this OpenGL bit will blow over, or perhaps we should keep an eye on it as a sort of model for future Microsoft attacks on "open xyz". Let's check the link, there are some quotes: They're offering to license their IP under reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms; will license rights to the extent necessary, provided a reciprocal license is granted to MS. Granted on 1:1 basis for OpenGL 1.3, 1.4, and earlier versions. Ahh, there's the magic "reasonable" (to Microsoft) and "non-discriminatory" (except if you don't agree to the terms). How would this cross-licensing apply to implementations other than the official OpenGL? Microsoft suggests that other bodies have licensing terms that are more effective in a corporate sense, and we should look at adopting some of those terms. Uh huh..what does "more effective in a corporate sense" mean exactly.... Well I don't know much about OpenGL licensing, or how much of this extension stuff is implemented in non-OpenGL implementations (like Mesa?) so I'll just watch and see what happens. "
    • They're offering to license their IP under reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms; will license rights to the extent necessary, provided a reciprocal license is granted to MS.

      Does RAND not mean that anyone giving out free-as-in-beer software will now have to cough up a few bucks for Microsoft for each unit distributed? In this sense, RAND really means Unreasonable and Discriminatory.
  • MS? Not nVidia? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Namarrgon (105036) on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @11:46PM (#3854325) Homepage
    MS don't look like they're after royalties or anything; the notes suggest they're willing to cross-licence it, or perhaps licence it for free - they just want to hang on to their IP. At least, that's my impression, but they haven't fully defined their position on it yet.

    However, I'm a little confused. What parts of vertex & fragment shader are they actually claiming IP on? I thought it was nVidia that had IP on hardware vertex & fragment shader extensions, and that they licenced that IP to Microsoft for use in DX8.

  • Apple, in addition to a heck of a lot of other companies, would not stand for MS claiming ownership over parts of OpenGL. They're making heavy use of it in QuartzXtreme. But, thankfully, as someone noted, it appears to be a non-issue. Although, this kind of thing still is scary.
  • The DirectX 7 and 8 exposed programmable pixel/vertex shading abilities long before OpenGL did. The development of these DirectX versions and the first GPUs capable of them from nVidia et al were basically hand in hand.
  • by 2g3-598hX (586789) on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @11:59PM (#3854365)
    why doesn't Linux?
    • by zangdesign (462534) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @12:45AM (#3854517) Journal
      Because Apple is a corporate entity, whereas Open Source is a philosophy?

      If you consider the makeup of the board, only IBM has any kind of direct interest in Linux and I really don't think they want Linux for it's amazing leaps forward in GUI design.

      The remainder of the board all have their own fish to fry and none of them are direct contributors to Linux, AFAIK.

      So, boys and girls, time to nut up and get some corporation to back the OpenGL initiative on Linux, which means someone's gonna have to make some bucks off it somewhere to cover the cost of all that politicking.
      • If you consider the makeup of the board, only IBM has any kind of direct interest in Linux and I really don't think they want Linux for it's amazing leaps forward in GUI design.

        If they don't, then they should. While Windows and MacOS have monolithic, unwieldy GUIs that are constraint by a need to cater to legacy tastes, Linux and X11 neatly modularize the major functions of a window system: 2D graphics, input methods, window management, inter client communications, network transparency, resources, authentication, etc.

        In Linux, you can actually try out new window management styles, new input methods, or new kinds of widgets without having to start from scratch.

        The real problem is that almost nobody is doing research in human-computer interaction anymore--everybody just keeps tinkering around with the same old paradigms.

    • The answer is probably something like... voting member groups can join the ARB for $100,000 yearly membership dues. For that, you'll get a link to your company's website on the ARB's member list page. Member companies may also send up to 3 corporate research workers to the ARB meetings, which may be located in completely random places in the world.

    • You can read a little about the ARB here [opengl.org].

    • "Linux" is not. Do you mean just Linus Torvalds? Some kernel developers? Mandrake, SuSE, Red Hat employees? Patrick Volkerding?

      Lalala -- it's all madness, that's why LSB exists, and why United Linux is trying to exist. It gives a nice, corporate friendly coherent entity.
    • I seem to remember Brian Paul, author of Mesa, as being on the ARB but I don't see his name there. Is Precision Insight still alive? Is Brian still alive?
      :(

      -metric
  • Microsoft seems to be willing to play nice with OpenGL right now, but what happens if and when they change their mind and "suggest" people use DirectX for all games?

    Is this the last generation of 3D graphics for gaming as we know it? MS holds all the cards...right?

    -Pete
  • a bad idea? If MS's claims are true, how much of the rug are we talking about having pulled out from under Linux? How long until someone figures a cool, neat trick to have the same ends but different means?

    What about the SEGA finding, where the court fount that if the hardware required the software to do something, then the hardware manufacturer didn't have a kick comming when a aftermarket software house released a game that did what the hardware required, even though the software company didn't license the code from the hardware manufacturer?

  • Hey, don't forget about Mac OS X. Apple is a huge player in on the Open GL field. There's probably actually more development for OpenGL apps and games for MacOS then their is for Linux.
  • IP in OpenGL (Score:4, Insightful)

    by balloonhead (589759) <doncuanNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:11AM (#3854599)
    How does this happen? Surely by it's very nature OpenGL should not have IP attached?

    I thought that the writers of a standard which was designed to be open in its implemetation would be more careful so as not to include other companies' ideas in their product, whether it be Microsoft's of anyone else's.

    Obviously intellectual property, as opposed to trademarks, patents and copyrights (i.e. ideas as opposed to actual code) is a fairly large, often equivocal area, but it seems that this, however innocent, could set a dangerous precedent. Microsoft is a business, and they are there to maximise profits. They have proved that they often use very unfair and illegal means to get to this end in the past, and this just seems to be a potential area of abuse once their lawyers get hold of it.

  • by Ogerman (136333) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:37AM (#3854671)
    The question is, what does this mean for Linux -- how will Microsoft exercise their "rights"?

    The question is, when will folks in the US make enough stink to get rid of software.. err.. I mean mathematical patents. Software patents do nothing but slow innovation and create a legal minefield as we see even by the fact that the OpenGL group is having to worry about it. Software patents are totally incompatible with free software, not to mention freedom of speech. How's that different from ordinary patents? Because software has a zero cost of entry and is often NOT developed as a commercial enterprise but rather a pasttime.
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:48AM (#3854699) Homepage
    "Processor for geometry transformations and lighting calculations" [uspto.gov], assigned to Microsoft Corporation, issued today, July 9, 2002.
  • I remember long (in this industry) ago when Microsoft embraced OpenGL as a standard. That was shortly before they decided to destroy it and put DirectX in it's place, making it harder for developers to port their applications to other platforms. They went so far as to release a buggy OpenGL DLL, and stamp it with the same version numbers as a working revision of the OpenGL library. Just an honest mistake as they explained it when caught. Yea, right.

    One has to ask, what does the name OpenGL imply? If they (or a company they bought IP from) did develop IP and contribute it to OpenGL, then, while they might still have a patent on some expression of an idea, I would expect that they can't go very far on controlling what they contributed to an OpenGL standards group.

  • The server seems to be bearing the load, so I won't karmawhore and repost the thing.

    However, just so much of this is bad news that a whole lot is coming back for this post.

    Microsoft believes they have patent rights relating to the ARB_vertex_program extension. They did not contribute to the extension, but are trying to be upfront about it. They're offering to license their IP under reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms; will license rights to the extent necessary, provided a reciprocal license is granted to MS. Granted on 1:1 basis for OpenGL 1.3, 1.4, and earlier versions.

    Who here wants to bet that Microsoft, who they admit didn't contribute to the extension, were the ones that used the term "reasonable and nondiscriminatory"? I find it surprisingly unprofessional of the transcriber that they kept the wording as fact. I also find it surprising that anyone can say with a straight face, "If you want to use this extension to shade the corners of your polygons, you must give us the right to use all of your software, and all of your old software, any way we see fit. It's 1:1." If it really was one to one they would walk away with a method of optimizing bump mapping, or some such.

    IBM thinks it's premature to vote on this without seeing the MS license terms. NVIDIA wants to vote it in at this meeting. SGI thinks if we can't deal with IP claims, we might as well all go home.

    Ah, IBM is wise in the ways of patent warfare. IBM, today being played by Suzy Deffeyes, knows all too well that if an opponent signs on the line before the contract is written, your terms will only seem "reasonable" as in the eyes of a conquering army. NVIDIA, Nick Triantos and Pat Brown, shame on you! You may be great engineers, but you are horrible lawyers.

    Microsoft suggests that other bodies have licensing terms that are more effective in a corporate sense, and we should look at adopting some of those terms.

    Microsoft is now suggesting the term "OpenGL" should mean open for business, and not Open doors. Notice this is a sudden attack on the very nature of OpenGL, not to mention it's ability to compete.

    Technical issue - 3Dlabs doesn't find 1.4 all that compelling without vertex programming, but finds the vec4 architecture underlying ARB_vertex_program too hardware-specific to include into 1.4 except as an optional subset. Seems short-sighted to incorporate into the standard when this assembler-level functionality is likely to be quickly superseded by new silicon generations; but it serves a tactical purpose, to take advantage of current market conditions.

    And so we see Microsoft's plan starting to take form... The fellowship is breaking.

    Bill asked about Microsoft's IP position on just the program management framework; Dave was unable to comment at this point.

    Forgive me for being so pessimistic, but when you run in and say you have a patent claim on part of the development spec for your project... Couldn't you have a little more background information available? At least for your own knowledge?

    Suzy asked Microsoft to figure out their IP claims, if any, against just the program management stuff.

    Once again, Suzy, I salute you.

    However, I really have to question the purpose of having microsoft on board. They disagree with the business model, the offer a competing product which they have made every effort to set as the defacto standard, and they have a long history of joining competing projects in order to destroy them. Java anyone? Microsoft doesn't make graphics accelerators, chipsets, or computers like everyone else on that board does. They are the OS, but they are also a competitor to the group's mission. Why do you invite the wolf in to protect the sheep?

    My god, it's been a long time since I hated microsoft this much. Thank you again, Slashdot, for reminding me what is important in life.

    (Sigh, time to go punch the Microsoft butterflies again. The stuffed ones, [ecompanystore.com] not the foolish ones [portlandskate.com].

  • The question is, what does this mean for Linux -- how will Microsoft exercise their "rights"?
    Like they always do with patents: only force them when someone squeeses MS' thumbs for a couple of bucks. MS patents a lot of technology, but not for money, but for the possibility to KEEP using the technology without having to pay a huge amount of money or worse: having to battle in court.
  • OpenOpenGL

    Audience applauses

    Thank you, Thank you!

  • by g4dget (579145) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @04:31AM (#3855013)
    You have two processors: the CPU and the GPU. You partition execution of the graphics code between them in a variety of ways and you standardize that. What, exactly, is the invention supposed to be?
  • by g4dget (579145) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @04:36AM (#3855024)
    [Microsoft is] offering to license their IP under reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms; will license rights to the extent necessary, provided a reciprocal license is granted to MS.

    RAND, of course, means commercial cross-licensing. Microsoft is using this as a tactic for excluding open source. They know they can kill companies like Apple in the market, but they are deathly afraid of Linux and open source. OpenGL is a particular thorn in their side since it just won't go away, and Microsoft's own junky 3D interface hasn't been able to kill the competition. So, Microsoft is now trying underhanded legal maneuvres

    I think the only way for open source to play will be to have an open source patent portfolio and to bring that to the table. Open source needs its own bargaining chips at the table.

  • Maybe they will just rename it ClosedGL.

    -
  • I personally am not surprised. Microsoft, in the person of nerdboy Gates and sweatfactory Ballmer, must have been insenced recently in reading all the press reports about the desaster that the XBox has become. Microsoft will never just drop it completely. They will do as they have done with every single other product that they have: They will modify it into version 2.0 and 3.0 etc until it finally gets accepted through sheer weight of numbers. My idea is that this is simply Microsoft at it's best trying to deny market access for anyone else who doesn't want to get owned by them. They will obviously try to patent key areas of OpenGL, only in order to later deny anyone else the right to use it, all to the advantage of DirectX. This will all go into XBox2, with which MS will probably try to make it illegal to use OpenGL.

    I am very glad that it looks like the EU is going to ban Software Patents. In the end Europe will be more inviting to competition in the Software field.
  • I like this quote from the minutes:

    IBM thinks it's premature to vote on this without seeing the MS license terms.

    It looks like IBM learned its lesson really well when dealing with Microsoft 20 years ago, and now are going to be really watching what agreements they sign.

    As well, SGI's response is curious:

    . SGI thinks if we can't deal with IP claims, we might as well all go home.

    I wonder if they mean that they don't want to worry about the IP claim, and are trying to just ignore it. Or if they agree with it, and just want to leave it at that.

    Good meeting though, nontheless. :-)
  • ...becase if they continue to show their true MS colors, they can kiss my business goodbye, and hopefully others will follow suit and show them that we don't appreciate and will not tolerate that kind of business.

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