[Vorbis] patent issues with Vorbis

Jack Moffitt jack at xiph.org
Wed Mar 30 10:53:23 PST 2005

To address other parts of this:

> With patents, basically you either see one that clearly infringes, or it's a "let's wait and see if we get sued" situation.  Nobody has ever funded a thorough patent search (although a few individuals have said they'd throw in a little money to help pay to have one done.)  The only patent search ever done was supposedly a small one by Xiph, but they wont release the results.

We did release the results.  The result was that we did not infringe on
the patents.  What we won't release is the official opinion from the
lawyer, because releasing that would just give any potential litigators
our entire defense strategy.  That seems silly, and our lawyers have all
advised us very strongly that this would be a bad idea.  

> I don't think the situation is any clearer now than when it was discussed in those links you reference.  And I seriously doubt it's going to get any clearer simply because you've asked.

I don't think it's possible to get any clearer.  Every lawyer we've
asked so far, has told us we're doing everything we can do.  If we were
a huge company with an unlimited budget, there isn't much else we could
do.  I think the bulk of people's questions in this matter come from
misunderstanding patent law.

> Which means if you are indeed concerned about patents, and your company is strict about these things, then you are going to have to stay far away from any vorbis support.  (And considering you've already done quite a bit of searching, I suspect your company does indeed care about patents!)

You have to stay away from any and all software if you care about
patents.  Are you saying that every company does a thorough search on
EVERY little piece of code?  There are patents far more broad than the
relevant ones for audio.  The patent situation you describe is not
unique to our project, but is shared among all projects.  The only
reason people care in the audio codec world is because Thompson was
quite litigious in defending their so-called property.  No one else has
been litigious in this sense, and so the only real threat is from
Thompson.  They haven't sued us, and they know us very well, so we put
forth that this fact, plus the fact of the very thorough patent scrub on
Thompson's patents is proof enough for anyone.  A similar patent scrub
on Thompson's patents costs less than the licensing costs of the other
codecs, in case you don't want to take our word for it.

You still have these same problems even if you use WMA or any other
format.  I believe there is currently someone suing Microsoft for this
exact reason.

We claim our codec is free from patent claims by other companies.  We
have backed this up with as much legal justification as is currently
possible in the US legal system (or so our lawyer's tell us).  You are
on far safer ground with Vorbis than most other options.


More information about the Vorbis mailing list