John Carmack, the guy behind the Doom series of games, has alway been a supporter of open source software. He has in the past released the source code for the original Doom and Quake to the open source community. This open access has led to Doom and Quake being used in a variety of ways and has allowed numerous people to learn how to make games. It has really come as no surprise that Carmack has decided to open source the code for Doom 3. What is surprising though is that move has been held up due to an old patent infringement suit.
Back in 1999, Creative Labs filed for a software patent for a 3D shading technique called “depth fail”. When Carmack was developing Doom 3, he independently invented the same technique. This led to some patent troubles that eventually ended with Carmack licensing the patent from Creative Labs. This old wound is now causing pain for Carmack once more. Because his lawyers are not willing to risk another lawsuit over the patent, Carmack is being forced to code a new solution to the 3D shading technique in order to work around the patent. This is holding up the the release of the code to the open source community.
Although the patent issues are a pain in the butt for those in the open source community, one nice thing is knowing exactly what patents you are infringing and exactly what areas of your software need to be reworked to avoid the problem. This is something that other patent holders are not willing to grant to those they are threatening, Take for example Microsoft and its claims that Linux and Android violate its patents. If MIcrosoft would just tell the open source community what it thinks is infringing, then the developers could just work around those issues. Instead, Microsoft insists on using its patents as a weapon to threaten companies into licensing deals. This behavior is well outside the bounds of the US Constitution’s clause to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts”.