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Truth Behind the ClearType/OpenSUSE FUD 123

Kennon writes "Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols over at Linux Watch clears up the FUD around Tuesday's Slashdot discussion concerning OpenSUSE, ClearType, and patent deals with Microsoft."
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Truth Behind the ClearType/OpenSUSE FUD

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  • by Tim Browse ( 9263 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @09:35AM (#18701443)

    Technologist Steve Gibson, a software developer and consultant whose claim to fame was inventing the light pen more than a decade ago

    From Wikipedia []:

    The first light pen was used around 1957 on the Lincoln TX-0 computer at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory.

    Gibson was born in 1955 []. That's some fast work!

  • by GroundBounce ( 20126 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @09:39AM (#18701491)
    First off, despite the popularity of bashing SuSE these days, most or all "purist" linux distros do the same thing, this is not just a Novell/SuSE issue. By "purist", I am referring to distros which try to stay as close to 100% open source and patent-infringment-free as possible. Fedora is the prime example of such a distro, even more so than SuSE. On whole, fedora is even more conservative than SuSE, and also has Freetype compiled in its non-patent-infringing way, yet, hypocritically, none of the SuSE bashers are bashing Fedora over this.

    Second, the deal between Novell and Microsoft regarding patents was an agreement not to sue Novell's customers over patent infringement. While this might be viewed as a "patent license", it is not an explicit license and thus very limited. The implication is that it would only cover inadvertent patent violations, for example by redistributing someone elses software. Novell probably still has an obligation not to infringe any patents that it has not been granted an explicit license to use.
  • by ACMENEWSLLC ( 940904 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @09:40AM (#18701493) Homepage
    Microsoft may have a patent on ClearType, but they didn't invent it. We did the same thing in the Commodore 64 days with regards to fonts in graphics. I clearly recall zooming in on text and seeing different colors in the transition from text to background. I've spent many hundred hours doing graphic arts on the Commodore 64 and have been published.

    I guess prior art doesn't apply to patents anymore?

    "Sub-pixel font rendering with Free&Clear - Microsoft says they invented their "ClearType" technology, but I quickly and independently "invented" the same thing . . . as had others who came years before. It is very cool, but rather obvious. " []
  • by bjourne ( 1034822 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @09:45AM (#18701527) Homepage Journal
    Mod parent up! That is exactly right and the full scope can be found on Steve Gibson's ClearType pages []. What they have patented is simple filtering of sub-pixel rendering. That is just a simple combination of two very old techniques, color filtering is used in everything from blur filters to fire effects to texture mapping. Sub-pixel rendering too, has been used for ages to increase the apparent screen resolution.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2007 @09:50AM (#18701585)
    Well except the sub pixel anti-aliasing they claim as their invention was invented by Steve Wozniak a couple of decades earlier.

    So yeh, Microsoft is raping and pillaging the software community. The guy wants to avoid a patent fight spat with Microsoft, he knows he'll win, but the patent nuisance (for a patent that should never have been issued) is the problem here.

    Some people would call it fraud, to apply and continue to use a patent you know had/has prior art.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:11AM (#18701813)
    It's interesting because the patent combines 2 existing techniques to increase apparent resolution on a hardware display. I'd argue firstly that it isn't novel, the only reason MS were able to get this patent is because early LCD costs were prohibitively expensive. That prevented the wider hacker community from "inventing" (sic) this first.

    Secondly, it's a patent on pure software, simply optimizing output for a specific display type.

  • by toby ( 759 ) * on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:35AM (#18702069) Homepage Journal
    It's not as if FreeType and MS' are the only subpixel technologies around; OS X has had it since version 10.3. Microsoft's isn't even particularly good, compared to the others.

    At least the brouhaha, while a waste of energy and attention like all FUD, is strong evidence, if any more were required, that software patents are a bad idea.
  • by chris macura ( 899109 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @11:47AM (#18703011)
    You can't sue an end user for patent infringement because they're not selling it or making a profit off of it. And if they are selling it, they're no longer the end user.

    Its perfectly legal---and theoretically, encouraged---to take a patent and use it to build the system at home. Theoretically, patents are to be in such detail that the invention they patent may be recreated from the patent.

  • Well except the sub pixel anti-aliasing they claim as their invention was invented by Steve Wozniak a couple of decades earlier.

    I think it was even earlier than that, there were some links in yesterday's discussion to what looks like exactly the same feature, being investigated by Xerox even earlier. The prior art on at least the most general concepts of this (subpixel rendering by switching on individual Red, Green, or Blue color elements in a display) seems pretty damning.

    But then again, the prior art against Microsoft's FAT patents was pretty damning too, and it even went through two USPTO reviews that said the patents should be invalidated, but at the 11th hour there was an additional review and suddenly they were "novel and non-obvious" again. Makes you wonder exactly Microsoft has by the short hairs that made a phone call to smooth things over... If they really need these patents, they'll never be overturned regardless of the obviousness of the prior art; the patent system is too thoroughly corrupt.

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire