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Patented algorithms in OpenCV
2 replies [Last post]
Last seen: 2 years 24 weeks ago
Level 4: Thaumaturgist
Joined: 2011-05-31
Points: 95

It recently came to my attention that SIFT and possibly SURF are patented. Now both of these are present in OpenCV and yet OpenCV has a permissive "liberal" BSD license. What are the ramifications of this, and is anyone aware of any other potential minefields that may lie within OpenCV?

Regarding SIFT/SURF, Gary Bradski (father of OpenCV) described @ the most recent EVA Summit the ORB feature detector, and recommended to the audience that they should be using that one in lieu of SURF/SIFT.


zhenyu's picture
Last seen: 1 year 4 weeks ago
Level 3: Conjurer
Joined: 2011-05-31
Points: 45

Most open-source licenses (BSD/GPL/Apache/etc.) do not guarantee that the code will not induce patent infringement. It is the responsibility of the commercial users to handle the patent issues. A recent example is the patent war against Android. Despite that Google makes Android "open source", Microsoft can still claim patent infringement from the users of Android (samsung/HTC/etc.).

Jeff Bier
Jeff Bier's picture
Last seen: 20 weeks 1 day ago
EditorLevel 4: Thaumaturgist
Joined: 2011-05-29
Points: 93

In my view, product creators always have to be careful about others' patents.  You might find an algorithm in the research literature or in a textbook, but that doesn't mean that the algorithm (or perhaps using it as you intend to -- e.g., in a particular application, or in combination with some other algorithm) isn't covered by someone's patent.  Similarly, the fact that you find an algorithm (or other technique) in an open source library does not necessarily mean that it isn't covered in some way by someone's patent.

At the Embedded Vision Alliance Member Summit last week, Gary Bradski (Director of OpenCV) said that there are plans to segregate elements of OpenCV that are known to intersect with patents, as a way of alerting OpenCV users that there is a known risk with those elements.  I think that's a great idea.

Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, and this should not be taken as legal advice.