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Will Apple put its lawyers behind the open codec patent attack?

Should Apple be a contributor to the patent pool Steve Jobs mentioned, that would be very bad news because then the objective may very well be to prevent any commercial use and distribution of Ogg Theora and other open-source video codecs.
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Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

Regardless of the merits of a case against open codecs Ogg Theora and VP8 for patent infringement a very important question remains unanswered.

Who will pay the lawyer bills?

NoSoftwarePatents founder Florian "Floyd" Mueller (left), who was last seen here being panned for fighting the Oracle acquisition of mySQL, fears it may be Apple.

"While Microsoft doesn't try to force any Android phone vendor out of the market, Apple uses some of its own patents very aggressively in order to prevent such companies as HTC from providing certain functionality at all," Mueller wrote me late last week.

"It's important to see the difference from the perspective of competitors and consumers: the worst thing that can happen with patents is if vendors, especially leading ones, use their patents for exclusionary purposes.

"Should Apple be a contributor to the patent pool Steve Jobs mentioned, that would be very bad news because then the objective may very well be to prevent any commercial use and distribution of Ogg Theora and other open-source video codecs."

Mueller has long been concerned with the patent status of open source codecs, writing at FOSS Patents after Google announced VP8 would be open source that multimedia is a patent minefield.

It doesn't matter whether it's Google or any other vendor or a FOSS project: there's no such thing as a multimedia data format that anyone can absolutely guarantee to be unencumbered by patents.

This is one reason Mueller, who started in this business as a 16-year old computer journalist in 1986, launched his campaign against software patents.

All this makes the pending decision in Bilski vs. Kappos, still unknown at this writing, so important. A decision that encourages Apple to proceed, especially against Google, may make for the biggest lawsuit of all time.

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