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Slightly off-topic: the 'patented' technologies in SVG

From: Simon Brooke <simon@beesianum.jasmine.org.uk>
Date: Wed, 3 Oct 2001 22:42:43 +0100
To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
Message-Id: <01100322424309.00753@gododdin>
Two patents were declared by participants in the Scalable Vector 
Graphics process: these are US patent 5,379,129, held by Apple and 
entitled 'Method for compositing a source and destination image using a 
mask image'; and US patent 5,459,819, held by Eastman Kodak and 
entitled 'System for custom imprinting a variety of articles with 
images obtained from a variety of different sources'.

Some people have suggested that it was the incorporation of these 
patented techniques in the SVG recommendation which was the immediate 
motivation for the process which lead to the 'RAND' proposal. It's 
consequently worth briefly examining the merits of these supposed 
patents.

The Apple patent

This involves using a mask image to determine which pixels to copy from 
a source image to a destination image. This has to my knowledge been a 
common technique since at least the early 1980's, and was a supported 
primitive operation of the BITBLT engine on the Xerox 1108 Dendelion 
machines I used then (and of the Alto and Star machines which shared 
the same hardware). The patent was filed in May 1992.The Kodak patent

The claims section of this patent is exceptionally vague and broad and 
appears to cover any process for collaging more than one digital images 
into a single 'merged' image. This appears to have been first filed in 
October 1990. Again, the BITBLT engine of the early-eighties Xerox 
machines would appear to me to provide irrefutable prior art.

In summary, both these patents are (like so many software patents) 
bare-faced attempts to claim techniques which were at the time of their 
filing long established and well understood techniques in broad general 
use. If W3C had had the courage to face down these patent claims in 
court, they would in my opinion have simply collapsed. They have, 
obviously, no merit in the majority of the world where software patents 
are not recognised; it would be trivial to illustrate in court that 
they have no merit in the United States.

-- 
simon@jasmine.org.uk (Simon Brooke) http://www.jasmine.org.uk/~simon/

	Morning had broken, and there was nothing left for us to do
	but pick up the pieces. 
Received on Wednesday, 3 October 2001 17:43:21 GMT

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