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OpenGL version 3 is a specification for displaying 3D graphics. It is one of many standards harmed by patents.

Can you help? Has the situation got better or worse with versions 4.x?

Problem: no texture compression could be specified

The patented S3TC algorithm was considered for inclusion into this standard, but the OpenGL ARB working group decided to not include it shortly before the release of the OpenGL 3 specification. Since S3TC is the only texture compression algorithm implemented by virtually all of today's graphics hardware, OpenGL does not (unlike its competitor Direct3D) offer a texture compression system for RGB or RGBA images.

While not required by the OpenGL standard, many OpenGL implementations can or do incorporate the OpenGL extension for S3TC, EXT_texture_compression_s3tc. Without it they have severely degraded performance/quality.

Problems for Mesa developers

The free software package Mesa is an example of software which could not implement EXT_texture_compression_s3tc for lack of permission from the patent holder.[1]

The developers of Mesa have also encountered patent problems with "Floating point textures and render targets (in core GL3), certain compressed texture formats ".[2]

Microsoft's 2002 acquisition of OpenGL patents

In 2002, Microsoft acquired a collection of patents from Silicon Graphics Inc relating to OpenGL.[3] According to the minutes of meeting of the OpenGL standards group on June 18th, 2002:

Microsoft believes they have patent rights relating to the ARB_vertex_program extension. They did not contribute to the extension, but are trying to be upfront about it. They're offering to license their IP under reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms; will license rights to the extent necessary, provided a reciprocal license is granted to MS. Granted on 1:1 basis for OpenGL 1.3, 1.4, and earlier versions. [4]

This raised concern among free software developers[5] because "reasonable and non-discriminatory" ("RAND") terms can include royalty payments, and because depending on the good will of Microsoft might cause problems in the future.

Possible purchase of these patents by OIN

(see also: Microsoft sells patents to OIN, 2009)

In 2009, Open Invention Network bought some or all of these patents from Microsoft.

Related pages on ESP Wiki

External links