From 2006 through 2013, Jagiellonian University computer scientist Jarek Duda planned and designed a new sort of compression technique known as asymmetric numeral systems (ANS). When it was completed, he added it to the public domain so it would be free for anyone to use. Now, Duda is locked in a battle over the Google patent attempt of ANS as a video pipeline compression solution.
Google’s Patent Claim
The devil’s in the details in this patent battle. Duda’s work was admitted to the public domain for use by anyone, even if that’s Google. But, Google’s patent claim is tenuous, at best, since it essentially attempts to secure exclusive rights to ANS as applied to video compression.
According to Ars Technica, Google is maintaining that Duda’s is only a theoretical concept and not able to be patented, where Google’s is a direct application of that theory, which can be patented. It’s a very gray area, but the European patent authorities aren’t biting.
Instead, they continue to side with Duda, who alleges that he sent an email to Google engineers, suggesting they try his technique for compressing their video content.in 2014. In late August, the U.S. Patent Office issued a non-final rejection of Google’s claims to the same tech.
What’s Next for the Google Patent Fight?
A non-final rejection is exactly what it sounds like: a rejection that could be overturned.
In the Duda case, the U.S. Patent Office kicked the application out due to lack of clarity and detail in describing the code to be patented. If Google comes back with more information, there’s some chance that the patent will be granted, even as Duda fights for his work to remain in the public domain.
This particular patent is an important piece of the intellectual property domain puzzle. Since tech companies often try to patent things they’re not ever even going to use, as well as tiny changes in established processes, allowing Google to patent a basic application of someone else’s intellectual property would open the floodgates to other companies to do the same.
Precedent is a funny thing that can create legal stumbling blocks where there once were none. And although Google claims that it intends to keep the compression technology freely available should the patent be approved, there’s no way to guarantee that will remain the case as the search giant ages. In fact, if Google ultimately wins this patent, the entire public domain could be at risk.