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Submission + - Ask Slashdot: What happens if you Open Source, and in doing so violate a Patent? 1

An anonymous reader writes: We have developed a fairly useful Video Processing algorithm that we are thinking of open sourcing in 2013. There is one snag however: There are hundreds of imaging and image/video processing Patents that have been granted over the years, and some (small) part of our algorithm may violate one or more of these patents accidentally. Checking our work against the mountain of imaging patents out there is unfeasible. It would take a team of 5 months to do that. It doesn't help that many of these patents use obscure mathematical notations and formulae that make it difficult to decipher quickly precisely what the patent holder has patented. Now suppose that we open source our algorithm, and it turns out that it violates one or more patents. Could we get sued for damages because we open sourced it, and hundreds or thousands of people are now using it for free? It could take the patent holder months or years to identify that their patent is being violated, by which time our algorithm may have thousands of users. To sum it up: If you open source something that — accidentally — violates somebodys patent somewhere, what happens to you? Do you get sued for damages or forced to pay a high license fee? Do you have to shut the Open Source project down and take all files offline? Has anyone been in such a situation before? Are there any legal mechanisms or protections that shield you in a case like this? Thanks for any advice!

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