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17 November 2008, 13:54

MP3 patent problem at Openmoko

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The Openmoko project temporarily removed all firmware versions from its download section last weekend and replaced them with different ones this morning. Openmoko is developing a mobile Linux distribution and sells the open Freerunner Linux smartphone. The reason for removal of firmware appears to be a dispute with patent holding company Sisvel.

Wolfgang Spraul, Vice President of Engineering at Openmoko, explained in a posting last Friday that this measure was taken to ensure that no patented code is offered on Openmoko's servers or downloaded from there. This is to strengthen the project's position in what he calls a "protracted battle" with the patent troll.

While Spraul clarified in his posting that the shipped firmware is not affected, two hours before him Openmoko administrator Ray Chao wrote that the firmware images offered on the home page could temporarily be rebuilt without MP2/MP3 support, although it was unclear how clean these images would be due to various interdependencies. It seems that the respective functionality or libraries were found in the source archive after all.

Sisvel last caused a commotion at the IFA consumer electronics trade show, when the company obtained search warrants to investigate potential patent infringements at several exhibitors' stalls. Customs officers proceeded to seize several exhibits and close stalls. Sisvel claims to own various patents for MP3 and MPEG audio required for set top boxes and MP3 players as well as video decoders for DVB-T and DVB-H. Sisvel also manages the DVB-T patent pool. The company aims at maximising the value of industrial property rights.


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