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Microsoft Patents GPU-Accelerated Video Encoding

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the keep-'em-accelerated dept.

Microsoft 304

An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft has just received a patent that grants the company the rights to GPU-accelerated video encoding, which may be the primary technology that takes advantage of the horsepower of the GPU in today's consumer applications. The broad patent covers tasks to perform motion estimation in videos, the use of the depth buffer of the GPU, to determine comprising, collocating video frames, mapping pixels to texels, frame processing using the GPU, and output of data to the CPU."

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304 comments

Extra Extra! (4, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#33871828)

A Graphics Processing Unit has been used to accelerate video!

If this doesn't qualify as 'obvious' then we are all doomed.

Re:Extra Extra! (2, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872168)

It may be obvious now, but Microsoft applied for this patent in 2004, well before stuff like OpenCL and CUDA came around.

Was it obvious then? IMHO, yes: I had thought of this as early as 1996 and was disappointed to learn that GPUs at that time lacked sufficient horsepower and, more importantly, sufficient instruction sets.

Re:Extra Extra! (4, Insightful)

autocracy (192714) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872234)

It seems that the idea was apparent long before the patent came about. I think the underlying reason that we haven't seen it yet is that the tradeoff value wasn't present yet. The GPU must beat out the CPU by a sufficiently wide price and performance margin for the workload before anybody bothers with specialized code for it.

In fact, this is a math coprocessor revisited. Remember those?

Re:Extra Extra! (5, Informative)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872532)

We saw this at SIGGRAPH for YEARS before 2000.

I think that Be Computer had colliding patents - not to mention SGI and nVidia.

Re:Extra Extra! (3, Interesting)

Cornelius the Great (555189) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872928)

In fact, this is a math coprocessor revisited. Remember those?

Yes, those chips that handled floating-point operations so well that they eventually were integrated directly onto the CPU die itself; ie- 80386 CPU + 387 co-processor evolved into a single 486DX with integrated FPU.

Still, I don't see the why you're comparing them to GPUs... FPUs were small in comparison, even compared to early fixed-function rasterizers from the 90s; today GPUs are multi-billion-transistor chips with hundreds of programmable stream processors (with faster/higher bandwidth memory) that not only cover all of the rendering pipeline, but can do general-purpose computation as well. While small GPUs are getting integrated into future CPUs (AMD Fusion, Intel Sandy Bridge, etc), I'm doubtful discrete graphics will disappear in the way x86 math-coprocessors did, at least for the foreseeable future.

Re:Extra Extra! (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33873094)

In 1990 I worked on a project using TMS320C30 floating pt. processors to simulate radar imagery under control of a 68040 processor. They weren't called GPUs specifically - I'm sure in lawyer speak that wouldn't affect MicroQuack's patent trolling. But in non-lawyer speak, it surely amounted to video processing using dedicated processors & the only thing different is the packaging - independent chips on a VME board.

Re:Extra Extra! (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#33873110)

The patent is basically "use the fastest chip in the computer to do the work".

How is that non-obvious?

Re:Extra Extra! (1, Insightful)

smallfries (601545) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872232)

Why would it be obvious that hardware designed to accelerate 3d rendering - transformation, lighting and rasterisation - can accelerate the compression of video frames?

It seems that you are 'obviously' wrong.

Re:Extra Extra! (4, Insightful)

onionman (975962) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872366)

Why would it be obvious that hardware designed to accelerate 3d rendering - transformation, lighting and rasterisation - can accelerate the compression of video frames?

It seems that you are 'obviously' wrong.

It's seems incredibly obvious to me. Of course, I've worked on FFT code for Cray vector units which were around a long time before 2004. If you can't see the relationship between vector processing, FFTs, and any form of video compression/display, then perhaps you shouldn't be in charge of determining what is "obvious" regarding this particular patent.

I have long felt that our patent system is ridiculous because it allows such silly patents. If something is obvious to an expert in the field, then it shouldn't be patentable.

Re:Extra Extra! (1)

smallfries (601545) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872728)

No. You are confusing a current graphics card for one of six years ago. It may be obvious now that we can do fast vector processing on a GPU, but they have come along way in six years, each generation aiming more at GPGPU.

In 2004 the 6600 was just making it onto reviewers desks. CUDA was a gleam in some engineers eye and most graphics cards still used fixed function pipelines to perform rendering. Even the latest generation that allowed programable pixel shaders did not automatically accelerate any vectorisable problem. Scatter was impossible to perform just using rendering steps and gather was expensive.

So again I'll ask you; why is it obvious that units designed to do transformation, lighting and rasterisation (not general vector operations) should be good at encoding video?

Re:Extra Extra! (2, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872924)

No. You are confusing a current graphics card for one of six years ago. It may be obvious now that we can do fast vector processing on a GPU, but they have come along way in six years, each generation aiming more at GPGPU.

While I totally disagree that it wasn't obvious from well over a decade ago - TI DSP chips (aka vector processors) were being used on video cards from companies like NeXT in the 1990s - lets ignore that and assume your premise. If the patent really applies to such crippled GPUs then it clearly can't apply to GPUs that have been specifically enhanced for such functionality which make the patent moot when granted.

Re:Extra Extra! (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#33873144)

The words "graphics card" are a complete red herring.

It's obvious that you should use the fastest bit of the computer for heavy processing jobs, whatever that part happens to be...

Re:Extra Extra! (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872750)

If something is obvious to an expert in the field, then it shouldn't be patentable.

A patent is awarded for a clearly described and working implementation of an idea. It isn't enough to say - in a vague sort of way - that the idea alone seems obvious enough in retrospect.

Re:Extra Extra! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33873038)

A patent should be awarded for a clearly described and working implementation of an idea.

FTFY.

Re:Extra Extra! (3, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 3 years ago | (#33873068)

Except that conceptually, it's a trivial extension of texture compression, which video cards have supported natively since at least the late 1990s. The only reason we weren't doing video compression is that the video cards weren't fast enough and/or were too power hungry to offer an advantage over CPUs. The patent office should not be awarding patents for discoveries, and that's all GPU-based video decompression really is---discovering that suddenly GPUs are faster than CPUs and things that were impractical (but widely discussed) years before are now practical.

I've only skimmed patent, so it's possible that the summary sucks and that there's something novel and unobvious here, but at a glance, this patent really does look like an explanation for a straightforward mapping of video compression onto a GPU which with the possible exception of the motion estimation would have been obvious a decade ago. For that matter, if you had asked somebody "how would you do motion estimation on a GPU" a decade ago, they probably would have come up with a similar solution.

Then again, it's a software patent, and the design process for nearly all software is obvious to someone with suitable skills in the field, which is why these patents are almost universally crap anyway.

Re:Extra Extra! (3, Interesting)

IICV (652597) | more than 3 years ago | (#33873158)

That's why I'm an advocate of an adversarial patent system, something kinda like this:

You (as a private individual or a company) can sign up to be a "patent examiner", for a minor fee. You specify which areas in which you have expertise (and you (or your employees) may need certain certifications as specified by professional groups in that area, depending). When a patent is submitted, it is required that the patent clearly and specifically state what problem the covered art solves - e.g, in this case, it would be something like "efficiently encoding video using components found in a commodity computer".

Then, a few examiners are picked at random. They're given a day or so in isolation, with whatever reference materials they want to bring (no networked devices, though) to figure out how they would solve the problem. At the end of their isolation, they just need to produce a couple of sketches of how they would go about solving the problem.

If a majority of the examiners (who should be experts in the field of the patent) produce any solution sketches that are largely similar to the patent, the patent is rejected - because clearly, if when experts in the field set their minds to solving that problem they come up with the to-be-patented invention, then it's not novel; it's just an obvious evolution no one else has gotten around to doing yet.

Re:Extra Extra! (5, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872836)

You're being sarcastic, right? Why would a glorified vector engine be useful for doing video compression, which is basically lots and lots of vector math? It's so obvious that anybody with even basic knowledge of video compression would immediately understand how the two problem spaces map onto one another with no instruction whatsoever.

It's so obvious that ATI released software to do it within a year of when that patent was first filed, which means they were working on it at least a year before that, which means that multiple people independently came up with the idea at the same time, which means it is obvious.

Heck, other companies had already been doing this, and even held patents on it [espacenet.com] five years earlier. Okay, so texture compression and video compression aren't quite the same thing. One deals with a single image, one deals with compressing a series of images.... Yeah, that's not obvious to anyone who has never seen someone make a flipbook during class in elementary school.

Re:Extra Extra! (0)

smallfries (601545) | more than 3 years ago | (#33873044)

No, I'm not being sarcastic and I'm not trolling. I'm just better informed than you are. The hardware available in 2004 was not a general purpose vector accelerator. I know because that is what I was doing in 2004 - writing GPGPU code in OpenGL. What ATI did within a year was add specialised hardware to perform video decoding. This is not the same thing and cannot be reused for the encoding tasks that Microsoft are patenting.

So you, the OP and the other reply (not to mention the mods) are all wrong BECAUSE YOU ARE ASSUMING IT IS OBVIOUS NOW GIVEN OUR PROGRAMMABLE VECTOR ARRAYS. All of you lack the experience or the memory to say how obvious it would be ON THE HARDWARE AVAILABLE THEN.

Flipbooks are like motion JPEG (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33873092)

Why would a glorified vector engine be useful for doing video compression, which is basically lots and lots of vector math?

Because in October 2004, mainstream video cards weren't necessarily "a glorified vector engine". Many were still very much fixed-function.

One deals with a single image, one deals with compressing a series of images.... Yeah, that's not obvious to anyone who has never seen someone make a flipbook during class in elementary school.

Flipbooks are like motion JPEG: every frame is a keyframe, and no motion compensation is used. The claims in the present patent relate specifically relate to the use of motion estimation data.

Re:Extra Extra! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33872270)

yeah, the geforce 4 mx did just that... in 2002

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33872474)

A computing device used to compute?

Holy schmoley, say it ain't so!

Re:Extra Extra! (1)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872830)

I wonder how the hell could they actually get this patent through when GPU has been used to speed up both decoding AND encoding for atleast 10 years now. There's LOADS of previous art to prove that and thus this patent should not have gone through in the first place.

Re:Extra Extra! (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872976)

I wonder how the hell could they actually get this patent through when GPU has been used to speed up both decoding AND encoding for atleast 10 years now. There's LOADS of previous art to prove that

Can you cite three examples from before October 2004, three days prior to the filing date on this patent?

Re:Extra Extra! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33873096)

Hey, that never occurred to me!

Re:Extra Extra! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33873114)

soon linux dists will get the pay now or we'll sue letter in the mail from microsoft lawyers

Patenting the mere use of a product? (5, Insightful)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 3 years ago | (#33871846)

Are they serious? This is virtually the same thing as someone inventing a car and me winning the patent on "driving cars."

Re:Patenting the mere use of a product? (1)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | more than 3 years ago | (#33871906)

Agreed. This is a pretty obvious patent. A GPU is a CPU by a different name, and we've been doing it on the CPU for ages.

Nothing to see here, move along. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33871872)

Oh look, another patent that shouldn't have been granted. The only thing the modern patent system is good for is buying new boats for patent lawyers. Does this still surprise anyone?

Re:Nothing to see here, move along. (1)

c-reus (852386) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872548)

I'm sort of afraid of the mayhem that will occur a bit before the current system will fall apart

Re:Nothing to see here, move along. (4, Insightful)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872968)

I'm sort of afraid of the mayhem that will occur a bit before the current system will fall apart

Non-indemnified hardware running rampant! Patents running naked in the streets!

Re:Nothing to see here, move along. (2, Insightful)

KarrdeSW (996917) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872984)

We'll be wearing an apparatus to count the number of breaths we take so as to determine the royalty costs of our air.

MS making their own thicket? (4, Insightful)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 3 years ago | (#33871890)

This patent mightn't change much, but it's the weight of the hundreds of patents that's spoiling the AV field.

Microsoft is a member of MPEG-LA, but they pay more royalties than they make from the organisation, so they're probably eager to make their own AV thicket.

* http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Microsoft [swpat.org]
* http://en.swpat.org/wiki/MPEG_LA [swpat.org]
* http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Audio-video_patents [swpat.org]

Most consumers don't encode that much video... (1)

zbobet2012 (1025836) | more than 3 years ago | (#33871902)

... and most companies use dedicated hardware encoders like those produced by envivo and others. Besides that they still have to rigorously defend such a patent since this sounds like one of those that might get thrown out in court.

Re:Most consumers don't encode that much video... (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872294)

That's changing. The popularity of YouTube has caused the market for digital video cameras to explode; now they're in everything from cellphones to laptops. Video editing applications are experiencing increasing popularity as well and that means that people need to encode video on their PCs.

Re:Most consumers don't encode that much video... (1)

LiENUS (207736) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872298)

I think it is by definition that consumers don't produce much content. Making production of content easier with cheaper hardware is a good thing as it reduces the amount of consumers and increases the amount of producers. True most of it will be crap but it does lower the bar and allow people who otherwise might not be able to spread their ideas to spread them.

Badaboom? (2, Informative)

Deathnerd (1734374) | more than 3 years ago | (#33871918)

But what about programs like Badaboom that already use GPU acceleration in their encoding? Patents confuse me to no end.

Older than October 2004? (2, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872172)

But what about programs like Badaboom that already use GPU acceleration in their encoding? Patents confuse me to no end.

The patent application was received in October of 2004 according to the article. So I assume Badaboom would have to precede that or produce some form of prior art preceding that date to defend themselves should Microsoft resort to litigation after failing to agree to a licensing deal with Badaboom's creators. Regardless, a cursory glance proves that Microsoft could out lawyer them whether they are right or not so I believe with a 98% confidence that BadaboomIt is facing some serious liabilities.

Re:Older than October 2004? (1)

Deathnerd (1734374) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872308)

Ok. That makes sense now. It still doesn't seem right, but at least some light has been shed on the patent process for me. Thank you.

Re:Older than October 2004? (2, Insightful)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872704)

The patent application was received in October of 2004 according to the article. So I assume Badaboom would have to precede that or produce some form of prior art preceding that date to defend themselves should Microsoft resort to litigation after failing to agree to a licensing deal with Badaboom's creators. Regardless, a cursory glance proves that Microsoft could out lawyer them whether they are right or not so I believe with a 98% confidence that BadaboomIt is facing some serious liabilities.

The annoying thing is that there won't be a lot of actual prior art to fight the patent. GPU's at that point weren't very good at general purpose computations, so there wasn't a lot of generally available software that did it. Less so for video encoding specifically. OTOH, a GeForce 3 was somewhat programmable and it was released in 2001. People were abusing even simpler GPU's for general purpose computation over ten years ago using texture combiners and compositing modes. Even before then, people used quite general purpose processors as GPU's, and probably could have executed video encoding code on them.

Sadly, despite the fact that if you were to travel back in time to 2003 and shout, "video encoding on the GPU will be practical in a few years," nobody would really be shocked; it is still patentable in our current system because nobody specifically published doing this exact process on this exact type of chip. I expect It'll basically be another land rush of "X on the Internet" and "(The exact same) X on the wireless" type patents on the GPU.

Though, apparently their use of the depth buffer is kind of an interesting hack. That's less obvious from my glance at it, but in what I'd think of as an ideal world, it wouldn't be patentable. It probably doesn't really apply on modern hardware with arbitrary memory buffers and programming in OpenCL. But, it'll still be close enough in behavior to something more sensible on modern hardware that it'll still be scary as part of a giant stack of patents being carried by a scary lawyer looking for rent on your work.

Re:Badaboom? (1)

Kindgott (165758) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872248)

If the patent process is working as intended, which limits my comment to an imaginary world, the only thing I could think of is that Microsoft applied for this patent before the prior art (badaboom, MediaCoder, et al) were developed.

In the real world, however, the patent office probably just dropped the ball on prior art.

Re:Badaboom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33872258)

Shouldn't this be the basis to invalidate the patent altogether ?
Any /. expert on this matter ?

Re:Badaboom? (4, Informative)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872396)

This patent is specifically for running motion compensation calculations on the GPU, and everything else on the CPU. Badaboom runs everything on the GPU, so the patent does not apply.

Re:Badaboom? (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872582)

If Badaboom runs motion comp on the GPU, then unless the claims in the patent require the rest to be run on a separate CPU, it is an example of prior art. Even if the patent claims that the rest of the software run on a separate CPU, that is probably "obvious to someone skilled in the art" and again useful material to invalidate.

Re:Badaboom? (1)

CajunArson (465943) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872826)

I was going to go through the claims in detail, but you said it very succinctly. Slashdot never lets things like "facts" get in the way of bashing a patent even though the patent is actually pretty narrow in scope and does not cover modern GPU encoding techniques.

Re:Badaboom? (5, Insightful)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872634)

What is confusing? Microsoft does something. Microsoft applies for a patent on that thing. A patent lawyer who knows very little about the tech in question, has about 600 applications he's currently supposed to be processing, has been instructed that he can't work overtime this week by his boss, but also that he is too far behind on his portfolio and needs to catch up, and who doesn't make near as much as his buddies from law school do to begin with, looks at it. He thinks "I don't even know what half of these words *mean*", then notices that Microsoft filed the patent. Through his haze of pain and frustration he dimly remembers that Microsoft is an "Innovative and economy driving company" and says "fuck it." He hits the "Approve" button.

His boss is happy because his numbers are better this week, and there is no real penalty for approving patents that later get overturned. Even assuming that Microsoft ever attempts to defend the patent rather than just threatening small companies with it in hopes that they'll cave without a court battle.

The things currently wrong with the patent system which this story demonstrates:

1) Patent attorneys often don't understand the tech they are expected to review. This is less of a problem with "real" patents, since the device being patented is just that. A device. If it does what it says it does, in the way it says it does, understanding why isn't all that important. Software is essentially algorithms. If you don't understand them, then judging their uniqueness is difficult.

2) The reviewers in the patent office are phenomenally overworked right now. There are literally tens of thousands of applications backed up. I saw some patent official guy at the end of the Bush administration say that if all applications stopped, right then, he could maybe catch up in a year or two. I don't imagine it's gotten better. Both Bush and Obama have authorized more reviewers, but it seems to be like filling the ocean with a teaspoon.

3) Patent reviewers make a fraction of what patent attorneys in private practice make. This means that they're always looking to get out and get into private firms. Probably not all of them, but like any rational human, most want to make more money and get more respect.

4) There is no real penalty for screwing up. Most patents never get defended in court, because the companies that own them mainly used them as bargaining chips, or to threaten smaller, defenseless, companies. Even if the patent does go to court, it'll take years to invalidate, and no repercussions fall on the approver.

Eliminating software patents would, in one stroke, alleviate or eliminate two of these four problems. Probably the most serious two. It'd be awful nice if it happened. The alternative is probably the whole system collapsing under its own weight eventually.

   

Re:Badaboom? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872660)

Leeloo: ...jella boom!
Korben Dallas: Boom. Yeah! I understand boom.
Leeloo: Bada boom.
Korben Dallas: Big... yeah, big bada boom.
Leeloo: Big! Bada big boom! Big! BOOM!
Korben Dallas: Yeah! Big bada boom!
Leeloo: Bada boom!
Korben Dallas: Yeah-hahaha! Big boom! Big bada boom!

Holy cripes! (1)

jschultz410 (583092) | more than 3 years ago | (#33871964)

Isn't one requirement of a patent for it to be non-obvious?!!!

That a well informed person in the relevant field probably wouldn't think of the invention in the natural course of events?!!!

No way in heck should this have been granted as this use is beyond obvious -- it is sitting on your face wriggling!!!

Re:Holy cripes! (1)

mujadaddy (1238164) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872088)

Isn't one requirement of a patent for it to be non-obvious?!!!

Hey, there, little fella. You must've been trapped down there a long time. Your information packet should be arriving shortly.

Re:Holy cripes! (2, Interesting)

frinkster (149158) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872260)

Isn't one requirement of a patent for it to be non-obvious?!!!

One of the strongest justifications for patent protection is when you create something that becomes ridiculously obvious once you create it. This is pretty much the most perfect definition of

promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts

that you will ever find.

It was mentioned in another comment that the patent was applied for in 2004 and that as far as that poster knew nobody else was doing it. So... Were people contemplating this back in 2004? The idea of video cards being used for general purpose computing is not very old. Transcoding user-generated video from one format to another was not very common until YouTube got popular. When was that?

Re:Holy cripes! (2, Interesting)

eldepeche (854916) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872730)

How does it promote the progress of science and useful arts to grant a monopoly on using a processor to encode video? Now Microsoft is the only one who can sell a product that uses a GPU to encode video, a situation that doesn't give me a great deal of hope for the progress of anything.

Re:Holy cripes! (2, Interesting)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 3 years ago | (#33873074)

"Were people contemplating this back in 2004? The idea of video cards being used for general purpose computing is not very old. Transcoding user-generated video from one format to another was not very common until YouTube got popular."

Encoding isn't transcoding, though they're similar. People have been encoding for a long time and always looking to offload any of the task onto some other processor. You live in a time when some encoding can be done in real time with a general purpose CPU. In the 90's, when I was doing encoding, any way one could scratch a little more speed by getting something else to do the work made a lot of sense.

I suspect that there is prior art on the concept (though perhaps using different algorithms) which date back to the first GPUs. Things were really slow, and people were desperate. If I remember correctly, I wound up buying a card for a PC with two PowerPC chips in on it. That was not cheap. And yes, I know, not prior art. But I strongly suspect that some people in my position probably tried to do the same things with their Voodoo cards, which would be.

2004 (3, Informative)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 3 years ago | (#33871966)

Before we get a million "Adobe does this!" comments RTFA: "Microsoft applied for the patent titled “Accelerated video encoding using a graphics processing unit” in October 2004"

Far as I know no one was doing this in 2004

Re:2004 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33872176)

Pretty sure Silicon Graphics (now SGI) was doing this for a decade before 2004. But, perhaps someone who is more familiar with what they were doing can comment on it.

Still, this seems to be an obvious use for such a device, and certainly not worthy of a patent. I'm also curious as to why it took 6 years before it was issued.

Re:2004 (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872534)

I guess the companies that were working on these types of things didn't have available products before 2005. That certainly doesn't exclude graphics card vendors from working on these types of things in their labs - or discussing them at conferences - and graphics card vendors are the exact group of people this type of thing would be 'obvious' to.

Re:2004 (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872472)

Pretty sure SGI was using dedicated encoder hardware, rather than re-purposing chips intended for raster graphics.

Re:2004 (4, Informative)

samkass (174571) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872212)

Before we get a million "Adobe does this!" comments RTFA: "Microsoft applied for the patent titled "Accelerated video encoding using a graphics processing unit" in October 2004"

Far as I know no one was doing this in 2004

Still not enough information. Patent claims can change between the original filing and the version that gets granted by amending the patent application. It's done by trolls... get a patent application going and keep it in limbo. Someone else comes to market with something cool, and you add it to your patent application. If it gets approved, viola! You have a patent that is "back-dated" years before the invention hit the market.

I'd be curious to see exactly what the patent said in 2004 and compare that to the then state-of-the-art.

Re:2004 (2, Insightful)

swilver (617741) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872402)

All I have to say is... a GPU is like a CPU. We're gonna get patents for everything twice now, just like with handheld devices?

Re:2004 (2, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872598)

All I have to say is... a GPU is like a CPU. We're gonna get patents for everything twice now, just like with handheld devices?

Just wait until they start putting GPU's in handheld devices and we're going to see a *hat trick for each patent.


* I would have used 'three-peat' or '3-peat' instead of 'hat trick' but I believe those are trademarked.

Re:2004 (0)

ogreman (1630789) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872748)

Intel Indeo used custom GPU to accelerate MPEG in hardware or software depending on the computer the video was running on. This would be 1989ish. Also a German company made MPEG accelerators used in 1995. Also check ATI and Matrox early video cards which did this also in 1990's, again how didn't? So I think this may be prior art and totally obviousness in application ... Both parts are somewhere in my stuffs bin.

Re:2004 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33872986)

Obviously you've never heard of companies like Matrox, or a number of other video encoding companies that were around and selling "GPU" video cards to capture and encode video.

Re:2004 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33873098)

I have code that I wrote using an 8x8 VCP to offload MPEG-1 QCIF encode in 1997. I also have code that did full H.263 encoding in the same environment. That said, the card in question was a hybrid that had both a Trident 9xx series graphics chip and the 8x8 VCP as a secondary processor.

Additionally, I have code I was involved with (but did not personally write) from an offshoot of the same project that used the Chromatic Research MPACT! part to do effectively the same thing for both MPEG-1 and H.263. This was primarily aimed at used for video conferencing, etc, but the MPACT! *was* a full VGA/3D GPU. It was a completely programmable VLIW core that could implement everything from VGA to 3D to video encoding to audio encoding -- and even had enough DSP chops to implement a Soft 56K modem in it.

Smaller Companies (2, Insightful)

cymbeline (1792306) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872068)

This will make it almost impossible for smaller companies to make fast video encoding applications. They will have to start paying royalties if they want to encode video using the GPU in applications such as FRAPS or any video converter. Their products will either have to become more expensive or remain inferior to products made by larger companies.

Re:Smaller Companies (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872536)

The patent specifically covers offloading motion compensation to the GPU, while running everything else in the CPU. It only covers this limited offload, because of limitations of the programmable shaders of graphics cards at the time. Any modern GPU encoding implementation would offload most, if not all, of the duties to the GPU, and thus would not be covered under this patent.

Re:Smaller Companies (1)

zero_out (1705074) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872648)

This will make it almost impossible for smaller companies to make fast video encoding applications. They will have to start paying royalties if they want to encode video using the GPU in applications such as FRAPS or any video converter. Their products will either have to become more expensive or remain inferior to products made by larger companies.

I think that's the whole purpose of filing patents. The greater purpose of patents is to provide incentive to innovate, but for the patent filer, it's to gain a temporary monopoly on an idea, which gives a competitive advantage.

Enforceable? (5, Interesting)

airfoobar (1853132) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872084)

The patent was filed in 2004, and there must be loads of prior art. Companies such as Nvidia and ATI have had GPU-accelerated video encoders for years now.

Regardless, this patent should never have been granted. It's all because of the patent office's massive backlog, and their decision to accept every random patent to reduce it.

Re:Enforceable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33872322)

Forget video cards for PCs, movie studios have been doing this kind of thing for a very long time.

Re:Enforceable? (1)

cfc-12 (1195347) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872578)

The patent was filed in 2004, and there must be loads of prior art. Companies such as Nvidia and ATI have had GPU-accelerated video encoders for years now.

Are you sure? Video decoders yes, but I'm not so sure about encoders.

Regardless, this patent should never have been granted. It's all because of the patent office's massive backlog, and their decision to accept every random patent to reduce it.

No arguments there...

Re:Enforceable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33872666)

Companies such as Nvidia and ATI have had GPU-accelerated video encoders for years now.

Are you sure you aren't mixing up "encoder" and "decoder"? In 2004, I don't believe any of the hardware was suitable for video encoding. The "GPU" at that time was still pretty specialized and not very open to things other than rendering and decoding.

Re:Enforceable? (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872808)

Which begs the question of why it took 6 years to grant the patent. Since 2004, tons of software has done this. If a patent takes more than a month, something is wrong. Because technology can change radically in 6 years.

And in other news... (1)

Soskywalkr (617860) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872170)

Four of the top executives nVidia were found dead in a hotel room after apparently participating in a group suicide...

Patenting problems .. (1)

roguegramma (982660) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872216)

The problem with this patent might be that attempts to patent the problem, i.e. all solutions to a problem, not a specific solution. This type of abuse should be stopped. It isn't stopped by giving companies a slap on the wrist, that is invalidating a few claims and letting the others stand.

Of course, since I'm a slashdotter, I didn't actually read the patent ;-)

BRILLIANT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33872250)

brb patenting using the internet for gathering information

They make 31 specific claims (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33872336)

They make 31 specific claims. They specify offsets and macro block sizes. And using SAD and MSE in motion.

Could someone who knows look over the actual patent. Are they patenting some specific type of GPU acceleration or something everyone has been using?

Patenting using something for its intended purpose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33872378)

I've never understood how anyone could patent using something for its intended purpose.

Prior art is EASILY provable -- this patent is BS. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33872432)

I can PERSONALLY prove prior art on this patent.

I have custom code from a project back in 1997-1998 for a Chromatic Research MPACT video card that used it to offload either MPEG-1 or H.263 video encoding process to the card.

I also have code from the same era that offloads both H.263 and/or MPEG-1 encoding to a video card that is based around a combination of a Trident 9xx series video chip and an 8x8 VCP.

So, I can PROVE I have WORKING code that does what this patent is for that was written in 1998 or earlier.

Re:Prior art is EASILY provable -- this patent is (1)

itsybitsy (149808) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872646)

Please provide a link to a web page with further details. Thanks.

... says the Anonymous Coward (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 3 years ago | (#33873102)

'nuff said. I think there's another Anonymous Coward around here who claims he has a working cold fusion reactor in his garage, and another one who invented time travel and could use it, but he just doesn't want to.

3dfx anyone (2, Interesting)

goobenet (756437) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872446)

Pretty sure the prior art goes back waaaaaay beyond 2004. 3Dfx was out of buisness by the time this patent was filed. In other news, the fastest counterclaim lawsuit has been filed by any/all video card manufacturers in business before 2004.

Listing of prior art (2, Informative)

itsybitsy (149808) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872574)

Crowd sourced obliteration of this patent.

Let's list the prior art. If you know of a patent that is prior art please list it here. If you know of a program or computer science paper or article that is prior art please list it here. Provide links if possible. If you review the patent and find a flaw please list it here with your explanation of what the flaw is. If you find any part "obvious" please indicate why. Good hunting.

Re:Listing of prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33872746)

No problem. What's the going salary for a patent examiner and to whom do we send our bills?

How can this patent be received by anyone? (2, Insightful)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872604)

This patent is nothing more than a description on how to use a general purpose processor to perform specific tasks. Adding to that, it describes a way to use computers to handle video. And using GPUs to do work is fundamentally very old technology, as they basically are glorified vector processors. So, how can such an obvious and overreaching patent pass regarding such fundamental technology? Is this not a obvious application of this particular technology?

Re:How can this patent be received by anyone? (1)

junglebeast (1497399) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872952)

If Microsoft can patent the ability to "shut down" a computer, and the ability to have a "user interface with buttons," then why can't they patent the ability to "use a GPU for its stated purpose" ? I'm just wondering how long it will be before Microsoft patents the ability to "use a computer to do computations." Did you know that the concept of "using a hash table to lookup information" has also been patented?

I really love how patents on software and technology are awarded by Lawyer's and secretaries who know nothing about software or technology.

Prior Art? (2, Interesting)

psbrogna (611644) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872712)

Weren't "Toaster" boards in Amigas doing video encoding on GPUs in the early 1990's?

Re:Prior Art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33873130)

Video Toaster [wikipedia.org]

Fourth paragraph under "First generation systems", looks like you have perfectly valid prior art dated December 1990. The question is "how specific is the patent", but it's probably fails the "non-obvious" sniff test based on your post.

A programmable GPU is just a bunch of processors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33872776)

A programmable GPU just consists of a bunch of processors. How is encoding videos on them anything new compared to implementing these algorithms on any other specific hardware/architecture ?

I'd Be Pissed (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872824)

I'd be pissed (and I don't mean drunk) if I was AMD (nee ATI) or Nvidia. Microsoft doesn't even make GPUs, yet now they've patented a way to limit one of the major uses of them and by extension, control the manufacturers of them. How long before the graphics houses need to license (i.e. pay extortion) to MS in order for their hardware to be fully utilized by end users without fear of a lawsuit? It's just another Microsoft tax by another name.

define GPU (1)

initcrash (1363765) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872912)

all they describe there is how to express the motion estimation process in terms of the DX9 graphics api. the way paralell processors are programmed today (with OpenCL or CUDA) is very different and does not require any of the steps described in the patent. In fact the OpenCL programming model is equaly suited for programming todays multicore CPUs as well as GPGPUs.

GPU for video encoding (1)

NearO (591410) | more than 3 years ago | (#33872992)

This might not matter too much. Using the GPU to assist in video encoding might be less of a good idea than many people think. Many complex procedures during encoding are not all that suited for parallelization. Take entropy coding for example. You probably have most of a chance for doing anything useful with motion estimation, but that's still quite hard. A bunch of people have worked on adding GPU acceleration to x264, as part of their thesis. There wasn't any real success. Most of them failed to make it actually useful, since cache considerations and the like prevented them from using nicer algorithms than exhaustive search.

As for existing encoders, like Badaboom, they mostly aren't all that fast or good. You can probably beat them with x264 on fast settings and still get similar or even better quality.

At the risk of being a broken record ... (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 3 years ago | (#33873032)

A) If you haven't read the patent, read it.
B) If you don't understand how to read a patent (and odds are you don't if you've never written one or aren't a lawyer, even if you think you do), recognize that your knee-jerk reaction to it may not be accurate ...

Slashdot has a long and glorious record of flamefests because 99% of its readers don't understand patents or how to read them and think a well-written fairly-narrow patent is covering some broad obvious area.

Now I'm sure the flamefest will happen, anyway, but I suppose there's always a chance ...

Only covers motion estimation (1)

inio (26835) | more than 3 years ago | (#33873084)

If you actually read the claims of the patent, it only covers doing motion estimation on the GPU and everything else on the CPU. This seems like a rather obvious part to offload to 2004's marginally-programmable GPUs.

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