Wednesday, February 25, 2009

ATSC Patents

File this one under the mess known as "federally mandated standards dependent on stupid patents".

It basically boils down to Funai having bought some of the patents that are required to implement the ATSC PSIP protocol. The *entire* ATSC patent portfolio is licensed for around five dollars, and these guys are trying to strongarm Vizio in to paying five dollars just for their patent.

This pisses me off on three levels:
  1. The definition of RAND (Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory) suggests that the pricing should be reasonable. Charging five bucks for one patent when the entire rest of the portfolio goes for about the same price isn't exactly reasonable. Hell, the H.264 stuff is only going to add $0.25 to the price of the portfolio, and it does *WAY* more than PSIP
  2. RAND licensing prevents open source implementations from being written - which is particularly egregious when talking about federally mandated standards. The GPL isn't compatible with RAND since you cannot pass on the same rights that you received, so this basically means there is no "free" way to implement something the government has declared a standard.
  3. The patent is stupid. Anything for which I can write a relatively complete implementation of on a single Saturday afternoon probably shouldn't really be considered patent-worthy. And this isn't some hypothetical - I actually did write the PSIP parsing code for Kaffeine in one afternoon.

/Gets off soapbox