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Ex-NVIDIA Engineer Patent Issue With Open-Source

NVIDIA

Published on 26 July 2012 03:40 PM EDT
Written by Michael Larabel in NVIDIA
17 Comments

An ex-NVIDIA engineer that had a patent concerning high compression rate texture mapping attempted to attack an open-source project for supposedly violating this patent related to software graphics texture compression. The open-source software in question is Crunch and it's written by a Valve Software developer.

Leading up to learning about the Valve Linux SIGGRAPH presentation, a Phoronix reader tipped me off that the presenter, Rich Geldreich of Valve, faced a recent patent battle with a former NVIDIA developer.

Doug Rogers, someone that worked at NVIDIA for nearly a decade within their developer relations group on texture compression tools and other projects, has a patent concerning "High Compression Rate Texture Mapping" and originally he had issue with an open-source program violating this patent of his, which is detailed at USPTO.gov.

The former NVIDIA employee filed a patent violation notice with the Valve Software developer over Crunch, an open-source library for handling DXTc compression. Crunch isn't a commercial project but released under the ZLIB license since last year. Gelreich details the project and the patent violation on his blog.

The good news is that it looks like the ex-NVIDIA engineer has caved under pressure and will grant patent immunity to open-source projects. From Doug's blog, "I have heard you and I am granting the open source community immunity from this patent."

Rich Geldreich is also calling for video card vendors to create new open texture compression formats that are GPU-friendly and easy to use for both compression and decompression. Hopefully if Valve fully gets behind this open-source texture compression/decompression initiative, there will be some progress, but it would still be a ways out and there still will be a lot of software dependent upon S3TC/DXTc.

Going back to my conversations with Gabe Newell when out at Valve's headquarters in April, he found it extremely silly and frustrating (it was news to him when I told him open-source GPU drivers don't have S3TC texture compression support by default due to patent fears) that the open-source graphics drivers were limited by patent fears. It will be interesting to see what else Valve decides to do in this area...

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