Google has been accused of trying to patent an algorithm that a software developer says belongs to him.
The software in question is a compression technique called asymmetric numeral systems (ANS), and was devised by a computer scientist at Jagiellonian University in Poland, Jarek Duda, who says that he invented it in 2014.
To ensure it was out there for anyone to use, Duda released it publically, instead of patenting his technique.
Patents licensed in 'permissive royalty-free terms' usually have a catch
Since then, tech giants such as Facebook, Apple and Google have all developed software based on Duda's creation. However, according to the coder, Google is now trying to patent the algorithm for itself in order to give it broad rights over the use of ANS for video compression - and Duda, understandably, isn't happy about it.
Google denies that it's trying to patent Duda's work, with one of the company's spokespeople claiming that Duda's invention was more of a theoretical concept that isn't directly patentable.
Nevertheless, Google's lawyers are seeking to patent a specific application of that theory that reflects additional work by Google's engineers.
Duda disagrees. He says that Google is trying to patent the exact technique that features in a 2014 email exchange between him and the Google engineers, a view that was also backed by European patent authorities in a preliminary ruling in February.
The European case isn't over, though, and Google is also seeking a patent in the US.
In a statement emailed to ArsTechnica, Google said: "Google has a long-term and continuing commitment to royalty-free, open-source codecs (for example, VP8, VP9 and AV1) all of which are licensed on permissive royalty-free terms, and this patent would be similarly licensed."
Duda retorted: "We can hope for their goodwill; however, there are no guarantees. Patents licensed in 'permissive royalty-free terms' usually have a catch."
All he wants is that Google recognise him as the original inventor and legally guarantee that the patent will be available for anyone to use for free.
Or, better yet, to stop pursuing the patent altogether and to recognise the invention as open source.
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