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ANS-Coding: Google wants patent for free coding

Monday, August 21st, 2017 | Gadgets

The upcoming free video codec AV1 of the broad industry consortium Alliance for Open Media (Aomedia) uses many new techniques to be better than the competition in the future. As protection against possible complaints, the participants of Aomedia assemble their patent portfolio, as well as new patents are created for AV1. Google is now, however, at least from the point of view of a researcher clearly exceeded the goal.

Accordingly, Google had filed a patent for the use of the coding scheme Asymmetric Numeral System (ANS) in AV1, but without its inventor at all. Jarosław (Jarek) Duda, who is researching at the University of Cracow and is considered the inventor of ANS, now officially opposes the application of his technique. After all, Duda has never wanted to patent or otherwise protect ANS, and his work is therefore freely available on the document server Arxiv.
Entropy coding is one of the most important techniques for compressing data. Arithmetic coding as well as Huffman encoding, which is used, among other things, in the Deflate algorithm for Zip or also in Jpeg or MP3, have hitherto prevailed in this area. The comparatively new ANS is among other things already used in Facebook's Zstandard. In addition to ANS, AV1 is also experimenting with the entropy coding, which was developed for the Videocodec Daala (PDF).

Procedure against patent application
According to his own statement, Duda had only noticed the patent application by chance and had not been informed about it by Google, although Duda wanted to participate in the integration of ANS into AV1 in the past. The researcher has been informing the interested community about the procedures for the patent application for several weeks and has also recently turned to various Polish media, as reported by the agency PAP. In order to continue guaranteeing the free availability of ANS, Duda wants to proceed officially against the patent application.
Users on Reddit have collected the materials available so far. These include, for example, the official protest note Dudas (PDF), which he submitted to the US Patent Office as a commentary, and also as a comment in the context of the international patent application pursuant to the Patent Cooperation Agreement (PCT). In the meantime, an opinion of the European Patent Office, which explicitly identifies the research work of Duda as a so-called prior art, is now ready, which should speak against a patenting of technology.

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