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Google attempts to patent an open-source algorithm

While many inventors and creators seek to protect their brilliance with a patent, others simply wish to make their ideas accessible to the public through open-source sharing online. Unfortunately, foregoing a patent for the greater good can still create issues of its own.

As Polish developer Jarek Duda is learning, other players may step up to claim the idea or slight variations for themselves. He invented a data compression algorithm in 2014, which major companies have since adapted to fill multiple needs.

Now, Google is applying for a patent to protect a video compression technique that relies on Duda’s algorithm.

Google’s case and Duda’s concern

Google is purportedly not attempting to claim Duda’s exact idea alone, but rather a way of using the code. The question that patent reviewers face is whether Google has added significant innovation to the original algorithm.

Duda intends to contest their filing due to two main reasons. First, he asks for acknowledgement that he developed the core of Google’s video compression system. Second, he requests that the system will remain free for public use to foster further breakthroughs in data compression.

Should developers avoid public domain?

Depending on a developer’s goals, they may want to seek intellectual property rights for their software or unique code before sharing it with anyone else. There are risks associated with freely releasing ideas to the public, but developers may certainly choose to accept those risks.

If a developer might want profit or clear recognition in the future, the safest option is to acquire rights before publishing the code. A patent could still allow others to use it royalty-free if the patent holder so chooses. Patents also allow developers to negotiate with parties who seek ownership on variations or new contexts of their idea.

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