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Tandberg coder accused of open source theft

Another case of an open-source project being pillaged for patentable ideas has come to light this week, with a Tandberg employee standing accused of raiding the repositories of the x264 project.

According to the leader of the x264 project - which works to create a free high-performance library for the encoding and decoding of H.264-format video streams - Jason Garrett-Glaser's explanation of events, a patent applied for by Tandberg employee Lars Endresen - whose name appears on a raft of patents applied for while in Tandberg's employ - represents "an exact, step-by-step description of the algorithm I came up with for decimate_score - and later coeff_level_run - in x264 in 2008."

Garrett-Glaser claims that it's no coincidence: "We already know from one of their employees who has stopped by x264′s IRC channel that they follow x264 development. We also know that the guy whose name is on that patent application files patents for practically everything he comes up with. Well, this time, it looks like he ran out of ideas, so he had to go use the cheat sheet: open source."

The timing of the patent appears to back up Garrett-Glaser's claims - the application is dated just two months after his code was committed to the publicly-accessible project repository. Furthermore, Garrett-Glaser points out that it's missing a key part of x264's implementation - the use of SSE4a to accelerate the algorithm - which was added to the code base the day after Endresen filed the patent.

The story mirrors that of Thanassis Tsiodras, who recently discovered that employees of IBM had applied for - and been granted - a patent on the techniques he had developed for the HeapCheck project several years prior. The timing of the Tandberg case, however, suggests a more direct correlation between the code being developed by the project and the patent being falsely filed.

With Endresen responsible for a large number of Tandberg patents, it looks like the company is going to have do some serious investigation into how this apparent theft has taken place.