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Microsoft patents GPU video encoding

Microsoft patents GPU video encoding

Microsoft's patent, filed in 2004, details the use of a GPU to accelerate the process of video encoding.

Microsoft has been awarded a patent that gives it control over GPU-assisted video encoding, potentially giving it a big stick to wield over cross-platform implementations.

The freshly-granted patent, first spotted by the guys over at ConceivablyTech, was applied for back in 2004 and seeks to outline the basis of "accelerated video encoding using a graphics processing unit" - a technology that was rare in 2004 but near-ubiquitous now.

The patent's abstract details a system which "allows the GPU to perform a motion estimation process in parallel with the video encoding process performed by the CPU," meaning that "performance of video encoding using such a system is greatly accelerated as compared to encoding using just the CPU."

If such technologies sound familiar, it's because they are: many professional-grade video encoding systems use Nvidia's CUDA or the cross-platform OpenCL languages to offload such massively parallel tasks onto the GPU for a significant speed boost, and such implementations are gradually filtering down to the consumer level.

It's interesting to see that Microsoft is first out of the gate with a patent on this technology: not producing graphics cards itself, it is reliant upon third parties such as AMD and Nivida to make the hardware that its patented technology can use as the basis for its acceleration. Whether that means that the graphics card companies will now need to go cap-in-hand to Microsoft to license the technology remains to be seen.

Although now granted, a patent is only as good as its defence against legal challenges - and with hardware-accelerated video encoding now a commonplace site, it's just a matter of time before a competitor challenges Microsoft's claims in the courts.

Do you believe that Microsoft's 2004 patent application means that it beat competitors to the punch, or has the Patent Office made a mistake in granting a patent for what is now a common technology? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

25 Comments

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Instagib 13th October 2010, 12:10 Quote
What a farce. Patents are a waste of time, especially when the legal red tape is way too far behind the development pace of modern industry. This patent in particular is ludicrous. It's like someone patenting petrol today and demanding royalties, despite petrol's mainstream use for neigh on 100 years.
I'm going to go patent the wheel.
brave758 13th October 2010, 12:15 Quote
agreed, more patent BS just waiting for the trolls
TWeaK 13th October 2010, 12:32 Quote
@Instagib: in fairness, this is different to your petrol analogy. Microsoft applied for this patent back in 2004, before nvidia or OpenCL had their video encoding software released. They patented the idea, although whether or not it was their idea or whether they have or are intending to implement it is another matter. I do think it's a bollucks patent as other competitors are now established, and this has the potential to cut them off after they've invested a lot.

I'm guessing it's the US patent office that granted this then..
StoneyMahoney 13th October 2010, 12:36 Quote
So they managed to patent using a multi-purpose processor that isn't a CPU as a video encoding platform?

...
cebla 13th October 2010, 12:37 Quote
It is possible the main reason they patented it is so that no one else can which will protect them from law suites later.
Almightyrastus 13th October 2010, 12:54 Quote
This is one of the problems with patents, they can take over 4 or 5 + years to grant after the original application due to the searches which are required and madatory waiting periods (in case someone wants to challenge the application).

I am waiting to hear about a patent for something I worked on last year but the predictions at the moment are it will be another 3 years until it is granted, if at all
jrs77 13th October 2010, 12:56 Quote
Patends should only be given out for real existing and build stuff. Patending general ideas is total bs.

patending a working piece of hardware or software = OK
patending the idea of the above = not OK
BRAWL 13th October 2010, 12:56 Quote
Insane. 'nuff said really.
tad2008 13th October 2010, 13:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrs77
Patends should only be given out for real existing and build stuff. Patending general ideas is total bs.

patending a working piece of hardware or software = OK
patending the idea of the above = not OK

Not true, say you or I have an idea that no-one else is using but don't have the finance to put that idea in to a working piece of hardware or software, should we lose out when someone else comes up with the same idea or hears of ours? No. We should be able to protect it.
Evildead666 13th October 2010, 13:40 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by tad2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrs77
Patends should only be given out for real existing and build stuff. Patending general ideas is total bs.

patending a working piece of hardware or software = OK
patending the idea of the above = not OK

Not true, say you or I have an idea that no-one else is using but don't have the finance to put that idea in to a working piece of hardware or software, should we lose out when someone else comes up with the same idea or hears of ours? No. We should be able to protect it.

The patenting of ideas is stifling production, because some trolls just keep the patents for legal action later, they don't actually produce.

What we need is a patent system that gives you a certain amount of time to produce a working sample, and then the patent can be attributed.
A year or two to production might be fair. for a prototype, just to show you are serious....
javaman 13th October 2010, 14:08 Quote
This could be good and bad, Good if it works like DX and microsoft design a standard for GPGPU video processing. It could be bad however since Microsoft haven't a clue about hardware design when it comes to GPGPU. Depending on the scope of the patient could companies get round this by saying something like a CUDA video encoder avoiding naming GPGPU anywhere?
jrs77 13th October 2010, 14:26 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by tad2008
Not true, say you or I have an idea that no-one else is using but don't have the finance to put that idea in to a working piece of hardware or software, should we lose out when someone else comes up with the same idea or hears of ours? No. We should be able to protect it.

That's unfortunate, yes, but I can live with it actually.

The problem is, that alot of patends these days are based on very general ideas, that are not further explained or detailed. These very general ideas should simply not be protected by patends.

The idea of offloading some calculations from the CPU to the GPU to enhance videoplayback is way too general and I know 5 year olds that come up with ideas like that randomly. It's just too general, too simple and basic of an idea.

If Microsoft has a more detailed idea of how to offload the calculations from the CPU to the GPU, then they should get a patend for this specific way of doing so.

So patends should be given only for concrete solutions, not the basic idea of possibilities.
RichCreedy 13th October 2010, 14:57 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evildead666

The patenting of ideas is stifling production, because some trolls just keep the patents for legal action later, they don't actually produce.

What we need is a patent system that gives you a certain amount of time to produce a working sample, and then the patent can be attributed.
A year or two to production might be fair. for a prototype, just to show you are serious....

yay someone has been listening to me about patents
Fizzban 13th October 2010, 15:43 Quote
Smells like BS to me..
thehippoz 13th October 2010, 17:31 Quote
kind of glad microsoft got the patent over a troll who will sit on it.. if they didn't get it, someone else would have.. be nice to see video encoding integrated into dx

not so good for software makers like badaboom though.. that video encoder rips through encodes in record time :D even though I barely use it over adobe media encoder because it lacks options.. good for newbies to get it done

hopefully they won't owe money to microsoft now.. I'm not sure how it works far as applied and granted times go- be wrong if it goes back to applied
HourBeforeDawn 13th October 2010, 19:24 Quote
so wait this means all these programs that use GPU acceleration to encode video could now be under threat of being taken out by M$? ugh this isnt good at all >.<
HourBeforeDawn 13th October 2010, 19:35 Quote
Oh so now that I think about it, since OpenCL is open source its probably safe but since CUDA is proprietary its and those that use it is probably the only one that could be screwed, which Im alright with lol. But really patents are just out of control now ~_~

Between M$, Apple, and Google... creativity just cant happen anymore without stepping on one of their patents.
schmidtbag 13th October 2010, 22:18 Quote
i really wish MS would just stop. stick with operating systems and thats it. when you branch too far, you either begin to fail (like the horrid xbox 360 RROD issues), you don't focus enough on 1 product (like zune being unpopular), you take too long (like their mobile phones), and you just look greedy. if ms didn't keep trying to dominate every market that involved a processor and memory, just imagine how much better vista and 7 would have been. they probably wouldnt' have even had to make a windows 7
HourBeforeDawn 13th October 2010, 23:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by schmidtbag
i really wish MS would just stop. stick with operating systems and thats it. when you branch too far, you either begin to fail (like the horrid xbox 360 RROD issues), you don't focus enough on 1 product (like zune being unpopular), you take too long (like their mobile phones), and you just look greedy. if ms didn't keep trying to dominate every market that involved a processor and memory, just imagine how much better vista and 7 would have been. they probably wouldnt' have even had to make a windows 7

well Apple does the exact same thing, but OSes are on their way out, even M$ admitted to that so they need to branch into other things to continue on but in this manner I dont care for at all. It just slows down progress.
deadsea 14th October 2010, 02:32 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by thehippoz
kind of glad microsoft got the patent over a troll who will sit on it.. if they didn't get it, someone else would have.. be nice to see video encoding integrated into dx

not so good for software makers like badaboom though.. that video encoder rips through encodes in record time :D even though I barely use it over adobe media encoder because it lacks options.. good for newbies to get it done

hopefully they won't owe money to microsoft now.. I'm not sure how it works far as applied and granted times go- be wrong if it goes back to applied

Unfortunately, patents back date to when they are applied for since MS would have likely applied for a provisional patent back then. So yah, everyone's quite screwed.
fluxtatic 14th October 2010, 03:45 Quote
It seems the patent process has changed at some point. I remember reading as a kid that initially the patent application for the Coleman lantern was rejected, as the Patent Office couldn't comprehend how it worked. The inventor had to build a new model made of glass so they could see the inner workings of it. Granted, this story may be apocryphal or I might be remembering wrongly. However, it seems that back then, if you didn't have a working example in hand, they sent you on your merry way. Coming to them with an idea (like the jackass that was granted a patent on swinging side to side on a swing) got you nothing back then. What changed?
LordPyrinc 14th October 2010, 04:29 Quote
The whole concept of patents was great when it first started. Now it's become a nightmare. Allowing people or organizations to patent ideas and concepts without showing a viable product is ludicrous. :(

Patents now are just used by trolls as a tool to make money from others that actually do the hard work and bring the concept to life. WTF?
[USRF]Obiwan 14th October 2010, 14:20 Quote
Wishful rules of patents:

1) Patenting a technology concept without actual making the concept will result in patent cancellation
2) Requesting a patent without proven working concept will be rejected.
azrael- 14th October 2010, 21:26 Quote
Only morons, such as the USPTO, would grant Microsoft this patent at this time. Sorry, don't have anything new to bring to the table other than my complete bafflement.
bobwya 14th October 2010, 22:00 Quote
Just another way for MS to bash the Open Source community over the head... Just like the massive subsidies to Dell (et al) to exclude sales of machines preinstalled with GNU/Linux distros. Great thanks (again) to the USA...
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