MP3 Freedom Day, April 16, 2017

Get ready to celebrate! The last MP3 patent is about to expire! I think.

The Wikipedia article on MP3, as I’m writing this, claims that “MP3 technology will be patent-free in the United States on 16 April 2017 when U.S. Patent 6,009,399, held by the Technicolor[73] and administered by Technicolor, expires.” OSNews doesn’t list any patents beyond April 16. If they’re correct, then Easter will be MP3 Freedom Day!

Or maybe not. The “Big List of MP3 Patents (and Supposed Expiration Dates)” lists a patent which won’t expire until August 29. The Library of Congress cites this list in its discussion of the MP3 encoding format, though it doesn’t have any special authority. That patent looks dubious.

The extra patent on the big list is No. 5,924,060. According to the Patent Office listing, it was filed on March 20, 1997, and no issue date is given. Since patents expire at most 20 years after filing, so it ought to be dead.

The format is already out of patent everywhere except in the United States, according to Wikipedia. If so, the patent has undoubtedly resulted in the exporting of a lot of technical work to other countries.

There’s a lot of uncertainty in American patents, because lawyers always have another trick ready. This is one resurrection we don’t want on Easter Sunday. For now, at least, let’s celebrate on Sunday and declare it MP3 Freedom Day!

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